John Rogers, Chief Executive of Skills for Health

Prime Minister Theresa May recently announced plans to “transform attitudes” towards mental health, as part of a new Government strategy to create a “shared society”.

John Rogers, Chief Executive of Skills for Health, explains how its new Mental Health Core Skills Education and Training framework will help ensure the workforce has the skills it needs to support this change. In her first major speech on health, Mrs May said mental illness has been “dangerously disregarded” as less important than physical illness:

One in four people experience a mental health disorder over the course of their lives, contributing to an annual cost of £105billion. Depression is also thought to be the second-highest cause of disability worldwide. Children and young people are particularly vulnerable to mental illness, with figures showing that more than half of mental health problems begin before the individual is 14 years old, and 75% begin before they reach 18.

To this end, several measures announced by the Prime Minister focus on young people, including making extra training available for teachers and a review of adolescent and child services across the UK.

The Prime Minster also announced a review by mental health charity Mind to improve support in the workplace, additional training for employers and the provision of an additional £15million towards community-based care. It is imperative that mental health services are of the highest quality and at Skills for Health we welcome efforts to raise the profile of this important issue. Such transformation, however, cannot be achieved without an emphasis on workforce training and development.

A new framework

We are pleased to have worked in partnership with Health Education England, Skills for Care and a broad range of stakeholder organisations, to develop a new Mental Health Core Skills Education and Training and Framework, that will be launched later this month.

The framework aims to improve the way the health and social care workforce care for people with mental health issues. It does this by outlining the core skills and knowledge they need to

provide high quality services and sets out the expected learning outcomes and minimum standards for service delivery. The framework supports workforce development, as part of the wider implementation of the national mental health strategy, No Health Without Mental Health.

It will also help improve the general population’s knowledge and understanding around mental illness and wellbeing, as part of efforts to create greater parity of esteem between mental and physical health.

Supporting a diverse workforce

The delivery of mental health services involves a diverse and extensive workforce. Staff may be directly involved in individuals’ clinical care, or offer information and assistance as part of their role. Mental health services are delivered in a broad variety of settings, from the individual’s home to residential homes and acute hospitals. In addition, whilst not directly employed within the health and care sectors, individuals working in the justice, education, housing and employment sectors may interact with those experiencing mental health issues on a regular basis, and as such need to have an appropriate level or awareness and understanding.

The new framework classifies skills and knowledge into three tiers. Tier 1 provides general mental health awareness for roles which may interact with individuals experiencing mental illness. Tier 2 provides the knowledge and skills for those who will have more regular contact. Tier 3 details the more advanced knowledge and skills needed to work directly with or care for people with mental health needs.

Overall, this new framework will support a more efficient and consistent approach to the delivery of cross-sector training and education for the mental health workforce.

Creating a solid foundation

Real change in the level, consistency and quality of mental health provision in the UK must start with those at the frontline of care delivery: the health and social care workforce.

This new framework, created in partnership with Health Education England, Skills for Care and a range of other key stakeholders, will create a solid foundation for organisations across the health and social care sector so they can be sure their staff have the skills, knowledge and expertise to provide the high-quality, individual care that patients with mental illness need. The framework will also serve as a medium through which education and training can be measured. Setting clear expectations for learning outcomes and delivery standards, and positive outcomes for people living with mental health issues, their families and carers.

John Rogers, Chief Executive of Skills for Health

About Skills for HealthThe Sector Skills Council for all health sector employers: NHS, independent and third sector. Since 2002 it has been working with employers to get the right people with the right skills in the right place at the right time. It is the authoritative voice on skills issues for the health sector and offers proven workforce solutions and tools, with the expertise and experience to use them effectively. 

Find out more about the Mental Health Core Skills Education and Training Framework here.

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