An interim strategy examining how the NHS can build a mental health workforce to meet the demands of the national service framework and NHS plan says extra resources will still be needed.

The paper, written by a workforce action team set up after the framework was published, says 'more investment will be required to deliver the services ministers want to see', on top of the funding for an extra 230 consultants by 2007 already promised.

The draft strategy by the team, led by Sue Hunt, chief executive of Coventry Healthcare trust, sets out 10 key areas for action in an attempt to tackle workforce planning, recruitment and retention in mental health - for a long time the Achilles' heel of plans to improve services.

It promises further reports on many of the key areas over the coming months, with a final report from the team next spring.

Next month, the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health is due to publish work commissioned by the Department of Health outlining a single set of agreed competencies required to meet framework standards. Under the draft strategy, regional offices will be asked to create maps of current education and training provision against those competencies, in order to plot out gaps in provision.

The DoH's economics and operational research division is currently developing models to assess the potential numbers and skill- mix required to deliver the service framework, with a further report due in December.

Much of the report focuses on improving training in mental health so that existing staff can be used more appropriately and new staff recruited.

The workforce action team is examining the scope for recruiting 'more professionally nonaffiliated people' into the workforce, which it describes as 'poorly qualified, poorly trained and poorly supervised'. It also examines ways to use the voluntary sector more effectively.

The strategy also looks at NHS plans to address primary mental healthcare workforce issues. A further report - also due out in December - will address how best to meet the plan's aims to recruit 1,000 primary care mental health workers. But many counsellors and GPs have criticised an over-reliance on 'fresh-faced graduates' as illthought out.

Joan Foster, chair of Counsellors in Primary Care, which represents counsellors and psychotherapists, told HSJ: 'We really could not believe it when we read this in the NHS plan. '

Mrs Foster said the money would be better spent funding primary care counsellors 'rather than introducing a new, independently trained workforce with no proper career structure in primary care'. She agreed with Dr Mike Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance, who said GPs wanted experienced counsellors, not 'fresh-faced graduates'.

The Green Party's conference in Weston-Super-Mare last week heard calls for a ban on electroconvulsive therapy from an 'ECT survivor' given legal aid to pursue court action against the treatment. Spokeswoman Margaret Wright said it was a cause the Greens were determined to support.

Mental Health National Service Framework Workforce Planning, Education and Training Underpinning Programme: interim report by the workforce action team.

www.doh.gov.uk