Psychiatry is one of the fastest growing specialisms in the NHS. With increased demand for services comes increased demand for staff- in an NHS that is already facing a recruitment challenges, and in a fast growing specialty, many trusts are struggling to fill vacancies in Psychiatry. Despite ringfenced and increased funding for Mental Health services, trusts are struggling to source and attract candidates to fill vacancies. In 2020, a report by the British Medical Association (BMA) demonstrated a 21% increase in demand for mental health services since 2016- though the mental health workforce has had little increase in the past decade, with some key staff groups having declined since 2009.
The significant gaps in mental health staffing- with one report revealing that around 12% of NHS medical vacancies are in mental health- are clearly impacting clinicians’ wellbeing and morale, as well as their ability to provide adequate patient care, Patients are facing increasing waiting lists and delays in care which can severely delay their recovery.
Psychiatry remains a difficult specialty to recruit for due to a myriad of reasons- not least limited training places, quickly increasing demand and an aging psychiatrist population. It is clear that the demand for mental health services isn’t going away- so how can the NHS ensure it meets patient demand and waiting list targets?
The only solution to the crisis is to improve retention and recruitment, but this remains difficult in the small pool of UK trained candidates that currently exists. The Royal College of Psychiatry has previously called to increase the number of training places for UK medical graduates by 8,000 by 2029. However, this would cost £1.73 billion annually and wouldn’t see fully trained psychiatrists entering the workforce until the mid-2030s. There is a shorter-term, pressing need for staff to fill vacancies that increasing training places does not address. It is clear that gaps can successfully be filled by international candidates, however sourcing clinicians, and supporting them in relocating to the UK, can be a heavy burden on NHS trusts.
International recruitment as a solution to recruitment challenges
In view of the shortage of candidates in the UK, the NHS must look to ethically recruit psychiatry specialists from overseas. We know that international recruitment is effective in many specialties – with one 5-day trip having helped . Earlier this year, Remedium and Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust flew over to Mumbai to hold face-to-face interviews with handpicked candidates for 6 psychiatric vacancies. Avon and Wiltshire is a mental health partnership trust, which provides inpatient and community-based care to 1.6 million people across the South West. Like many NHS trusts, Avon and Wiltshire struggled with attracting and recruiting psychiatry specialty doctors. However, following successful interviews, the trust was able to secure enough doctors to fill all 6 vacancies in its trust- a phenomenal 100% fill rate.
After returning from the trip, Remedium is delighted to have received the following feedback from Dr Pete Wood, MRCPsych at Avon & Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust:
“AWP, like many other Trusts across the NHS, has been struggling to fill its vacancies for medical posts. There are a multitude of reasons for this, including changes to visa regulations for overseas doctors, Brexit, workforce planning, and working conditions and morale in the NHS generally. So, to continue to simply market our posts through the usual channels (adverts in NHS jobs and full page spreads in the BMJ) was not, on its own, likely to yield much. Furthermore, it is evident that the NHS does not have a specialist in-house recruitment arm, dedicated to sourcing medical personnel from other countries.
In our pursuit of exploring alternative pathways to address our medical vacancies our Trust engaged a recruitment agency – Remedium. They are a well-established agency, experts in their field, and with an established and dedicated team in Mumbai with local knowledge of the medical graduate landscape in India.
A small team of representatives from our Trust have just returned from Mumbai having appointed to five positions. The quality of the candidates was excellent. The degree of organisation and preparation that had gone into the sourcing of the individuals, and of the interview day itself was exceptional. It goes without saying that our Trust, alone, would not have been able to achieve this without the expertise of Remedium.
The value of face-to-face interviews cannot be overestimated. It not only allows you to make the most of the assessment process but also helps forge connections and networks of other individuals who may wish to pursue careers overseas.
We will now start the vitally important on-boarding work in collaboration with Remedium to ensure our new recruits settle into our Trust and flourish once here.”
International recruitment can help in building a robust and sustainable workforce, even in specialties that are traditionally challenging to recruit for. If you are interested in seeing how an international trip could benefit your trust, please get in touch
“For Psychiatry, international projects are the only solution for NHS Trusts looking to fill multiple vacancies and invest in a guaranteed future Consultant workforce. This completed trip with Avon & Wiltshire is evidence that when NHS Trusts partner with Remedium, outstanding results not only can, but will happen. We are very pleased that the Trust were so satisfied with the trip and complementary of the whole project, to fill six Specialty Doctor vacancies in Psychiatry is very rare and difficult. I am proud of what the team has delivered and we look forward to working with Avon & Wiltshire again in the future.” – Sebastian Evans