Planning for the mental health support workforce

‘Untapped? Understanding the mental health clinical support workforce’ gives us a national picture of the demographics of the workforce. The Nuffield Trust found the mental health support workforce is predominantly female, but with a higher proportion of men than other support workforces (27% vs 17%), an older workforce (27% aged 50-59) and with a higher representation of Black/Black British (14%) than other support workforces (6%). This may or may not map to your own mental health support workforce, but we have included here resources that should help you think about workforce planning for these demographics and understand the key issues that affect the mental health support workforce. Your local diversity networks, Workforce Race Equality Standard and the Workforce Disability Equality Standard may be able to give you more insight into the opportunities and barriers specific demographics have. We recommend speaking to your HR/Learning and Development team to understand what local policies and procedures are in place and use these resources to support your planning.

If introducing new roles to an existing team it is important to plan for this to ensure success. Access the good practice guide on how to do this.

Understand the numbers of staff you need

The Mental Health Optimal Staffing Tool (MHOST), created with the support of HEE, calculates clinical staffing requirements in mental health wards based on patients’ needs (acuity and dependency) which, together with professional judgement, guides chief nurses and ward based clinical staff in their safe staffing decisions.

The Safer Nursing Care Tools (SNCT), including the MHOST, are free to use by NHS trusts in England and can be licensed via InnovaHealthTec. It is part of the Chief Nursing Officer safer staffing fellowship programme.

To ensure safe, sustainable and productive staffing, the National Quality Board Guidance on Safe Staffing helps NHS provider boards make local decisions that will deliver high quality care for patients within the available staffing resource. The National Quality Board (NQB) includes Health Education England.

To stay informed, use the Nuffield Trust: NHS staffing tracker, which provides monitoring and analysis of key workforce targets and trends.

Identify who is underrepresented in your workforce

Promoting a more diverse workforce can help ensure a sufficient and sustainable supply of clinical staff (Nuffield Trust, 2021, pg. 9). You can compare your workforce data to your local population, to help you identify groups that might be underrepresented in your workforce using the NHS Measuring Up tool. Refer to Figure 19 from the Nuffield Trust report (below) report to explore some of the benefits of greater diversity in more detail.

Workforce planning: older workers

27% of mental health clinical support staff are 45 to 54 years old, compared with 21% for the working-age population as a whole. (Nuffield Trust, 2021, pg. iii). Reflecting the community profile they serve, older workers bring experience, knowledge and skills that we cannot afford to lose in the workplace (Royal College of Nursing, 2016, pg. 10).

NHS Employers Working Longer Group

The NHS Employers Working Longer Group provides a range of resources to support workforce planning for older workers. Resources you may find particularly helpful include:

  • An age profiling tool (excel doc), which you can use to profile your workforce by age, helping you predict trends and identify areas where there may be a higher likelihood of retirement requests in the future. You can also use the age and working hours analysis tool (.xls) to show you the distribution of full and part time work across your workforce.
  • A checklist to assess organisational readiness including action planning, designed to help you assess how age aware your organisation currently is and to help you create an action plan for the future.
  • Senior management team presentation slide pack. These template slides contain national information relating to workforce demographics, pension scheme changes at the time and information about the Working Longer Group. This resource can be tailored to add in details of your workforce demographics and local information about strategies to support your staff to work to a later, raised retirement age.
  • Engagement approaches, including learning from NHS organisations, and a range of suggested approaches for you to consider when planning your own engagement with employees, senior management and trade union colleagues. There is also a checklist for planning an engagement event.

Valuing older workers: The Royal College of Nursing

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have created a 10-step action plan for working in partnership to create a learning culture that supports staff who work later in life. These resources include a template for a ‘Charter for Older Workers’ you can use in your own workforce planning.

Connect with others and get involved

The Age Action Alliance is the network for partnership working and practical action to improve older people’s lives...together. It is free to join and as a member, you will benefit from being part of a network of over 850 organisations, receive regular updates and bulletins and have the opportunity to get involved in taking practical action. The Age Action Alliance Employer Toolkit: Guidance for Managers of Older Workers includes details on knowledge transfer (the passing of knowledge, expertise and sector awareness between employees). This is often knowledge imparted by older employees who have accumulated intellectual capital and identified smarter ways of working in your business.