11 November 2019
A new survey by the BPS has revealed a stark picture of a profession under pressure, with psychologists fearing that financial constraints, widespread vacancies and excessive workloads are putting patient care at risk.
In the run-up to the general election, the most comprehensive membership survey ever carried out by the society highlights the scale of challenges facing the psychological workforce, including overload, emotional exhaustion and poor work-life balance.
Set against the acknowledged need to significantly expand the psychological workforce to deliver the NHS Long Term Plan, the shortage of psychologists is so severe that the profession was recently added to the Migration Advisory Committee’s Shortage Occupation List.
BPS chief executive Sarb Bajwa warned that swift action was needed to address the impact that challenging recruitment and organisational issues are having on psychologists and patients:
“The survey paints a damning picture of the challenges facing psychologists working across all sectors that are increasingly stretched and under resourced.
The NHS Long Term Plan sets out a welcome blueprint for increasing access to psychological treatment, but it requires a rapid and significant expansion of the psychological workforce.”
Psychologists working across a number of sectors responded to the survey, including those who work in the NHS, education, criminal justice and private practice.
It highlighted overwork as a major issue, with as many as one in three survey respondents finding their work emotionally exhausting. Harassment, bullying and discrimination were also reported.
Respondents cited particular difficulty with recruitment, and that funding and resources are not matching demand. They also reported significant barriers to entering and progressing in the profession, a shortage of training places, unclear career paths and difficulty accessing CPD.
President of the BPS, David Murphy, added: “We support the vision outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan for England, and the expansion of access to psychological services more widely in all Four Nations, but it simply won’t be delivered unless the problems highlighted in this survey are addressed.
“The psychological profession is highly skilled and dedicated, it undertakes demanding work under pressure and deserves to be given the support and resources it needs to deliver, whether that is for service users in our NHS or students in our universities.”