Recruitment and retention of psychiatrists is a major concern in commissioning and providing mental health services. With consultant vacancies overall in the UK running at over 12% for many years, current services are stretched and in some areas only locum provision enables them to be maintained. This means that plans to reshape services with new teams, strengthening community-based work, could founder. Most professions within mental health share similar difficulties. The different stages of the career pathway of aspiring psychiatrists, from interested teenagers through to post-retirement consultants, are described. Difficulties at each stage in attracting and retaining the most appropriate people are discussed, and solutions at each point of the career cycle that could add up to a permanently better staffed service and a happier workforce are offered.
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