Mental health and wellbeing strategy

Strategy laying out our approach to improving mental health for everyone in Scotland.

10. The mental health and wellbeing workforce

Workforce vision

Our vision is that the current and future mental health and wellbeing workforce are valued and supported to provide effective, person-centred, trauma-informed, rights-based compassionate services and support.

It is underpinned by the values contained within the wider National Workforce Strategy for Health and Social Care in Scotland and reflects what we heard during stakeholder engagement and consultation with the workforce.

Overarching workforce aim

Through our strategic approach to workforce planning, our aim is to achieve a mental health and wellbeing workforce which is diverse, skilled, supported and sustainable. This will ensure service delivery meets the mental health needs of the people of Scotland and supports this Strategy's vision.

Strategic and integrated approach

Our strategic approach to achieving our vision is based on the framework within the National Workforce Strategy for Health and Social Care in Scotland of planning, attracting, training, employing and nurturing our mental health and wellbeing workforce. It is part of our transition to wellbeing economy which serves the collective wellbeing of people and families first and foremost. It will involve building upon employers' own workforce strategies and other Scottish Government labour market, education and skills strategies. This includes promoting inclusive workplace practices such as Fair Work and the Carer Positive scheme. The framework approach will enable us to build upon the work that has already taken place to expand, grow and further support the wellbeing of the workforce.

Delivery of the Strategy relies on a cross-society approach. In particular, the people who work across the mental health and wellbeing system, including local and national government, public bodies such as the NHS and Social Care sector, national organisations, the private and third sector, as well as carers and volunteers.

The mental health and wellbeing workforce play a critical part in how we promote positive mental wellbeing, prevent poor mental health or further deterioration in those with existing mental health conditions, and provide safe, effective, timely, compassionate and evidenced-based support, care and treatment where these are required.

The mental health and wellbeing workforce includes multiple professions and roles across a variety of services, settings and sectors. Volunteers, experts by experience, carers and unpaid carers (including family and friends) also play a key role in supporting mental health and wellbeing.

Workforce Pillar: Plan

Overarching Aim: Whole person, evidence-based planning across the system to ensure the right workforce numbers, with the right skills, to provide the right support, at the right time.

Workforce Pillar: Attract

Overarching Aim: Mental health and wellbeing careers are attractive, with inclusive and diverse routes to recruitment, clear progression pathways and where all are respected, empowered and valued for their work.

Workforce Pillar: Train

Overarching Aim: The mental health and wellbeing workforce is skilled, trained and supported to work agilely and flexibly, embracing new technologies and are informed by evidence to support a whole person approach..

Workforce Pillar: Employ

Overarching Aim: Underpinned by Fair Work principles, sustainable and inclusive growth is created within the mental health and wellbeing workforce, in line with Scotland's population demographics and the demands on services.

Workforce Pillar: Nurture

Overarching Aim: The mental health and wellbeing workforce are valued, empowered and supported.

For this Strategy, we will be referring to two groups:

  • The core mental health and wellbeing workforce; and
  • The wider mental wellbeing workforce.

The core mental health and wellbeing workforce consists primarily of those who provide frontline mental health services and treatments across a range of age groups and various sectors. These are staff who are specifically employed in services within statutory organisations, the independent sector or the third sector to support mental health and wellbeing. This includes, but is not limited to, staff in mental health services (such as mental health nurses and psychiatrists), third sector mental health support, social work staff who provide mental health support (including Mental Health Officers), GPs, paid peer support workers, psychotherapists, counsellors, psychologists and Allied Health Professionals who provide mental health support.

The wider mental wellbeing workforce includes wider public, third, and independent sectors which, although not directly employed in providing mental health services, support and treatment, play an important role in supporting someone's mental health and wellbeing and can also play a significant role in promoting good mental health for all. Examples include, but are not limited to, employers; health, social work and social care staff; community link workers; police officers; community group leaders; faith leaders; school staff and youth workers.

While not part of the paid workforce, it is also critical to recognise and value volunteers, experts by experience, and unpaid carers who work with and support people. This includes family and friends and befrienders.

Although caring can be a positive and rewarding experience for both carers and the cared-for person, we know that many carers experience mental, physical, employment and financial impacts as a result of their caring role.[14] We must ensure adequate support for carers, particularly those most at risk of poorer health, to ensure their wellbeing and sustain them in their role.

There are also particular conditions (such as learning disabilities and neurodevelopmental conditions) which are not 'mental health' specific. Nonetheless, the workforce for these conditions and pathways to care operate mainly within the mental health landscape and will straddle across both the core and wider mental health and wellbeing workforce. Therefore, we will reflect upon the needs of these communities and the workforce they call upon in the Strategy and Workforce Action Plan.

Through a continued focus on Fair Work, there has been improvement in workforce recruitment over the years, with record numbers of staff working in services. Despite this, the mental health and wellbeing system and workforce remain under significant pressure. Increased demand for support and services, rising levels of acuity and ongoing high levels of staffing vacancies are having an impact on the workforce's capacity to deliver care, treatment and support effectively and safely, and also on their own wellbeing. The impact on the workforce's wellbeing is leading to higher absence rates and causing retention challenges across the system. This is further exacerbated by the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on the person seeking support and on the workforce themselves.

These pressures also impact the ability to attract, train and retain a strong and diverse workforce, which in turn impacts the ability to engage with and deliver long-term strategic planning for the workforce.

In order to overcome these challenges, we heard the need to:

  • Strengthen and expand the workforce, ensuring evidence-based planning across the system, to project and respond to current and future needs and demands.
  • Further develop person-centred approaches to support a whole-person perspective to achieve the best possible outcomes for people.
  • Promote careers across the mental health and wellbeing system, including within new roles where appropriate, and improve sector attractiveness, including fair pay and flexible working to address recruitment and retention challenges.
  • Increase investment and the range of routes into mental health and wellbeing careers, including within new roles where appropriate and improving and enabling clear career progression pathways.
  • Ensure there is adequate focus on early intervention and preventative support and services.
  • Remove stigma associated with mental health and wellbeing and any perceived stigma associated with working in mental health and wellbeing.
  • Increase access to mental health and wellbeing training for all.
  • Increase collaboration across the sectors, with more multidisciplinary/agency and partnership working.
  • Further harnessing the expertise and capacity of the third sector and addressing issues around commissioning processes.
  • Ensure workers' wellbeing is prioritised, and they are listened to, supported, empowered and nurtured.

Mental Health and Wellbeing Workforce Plan

We will publish a Mental Health and Wellbeing Workforce Action Plan setting out the immediate actions, timeframes and allocation of responsibilities for achieving the outcomes, all of which contribute to achieving our vision for the workforce to ensure that everyone experiences the best mental health and wellbeing possible. Given the potential of the quickly evolving landscape to affect demand and delivery, as well as new and emerging research and evidence, the plan will take a phased approach so that progress can be made quickly and incrementally.



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