Review recommends ways to develop mental health nursing

A range of recommendations to develop the mental health nursing workforce have been drawn up in a major review released by Health Education England.

The number of people being accepted on to mental health nursing courses has risen by two thirds since 2015 – but there were more than 11,000 nursing vacancies at mental health trusts in England as of December.

The workforce review subgroup on mental health nursing in England, chaired by Baroness Watkins of Tavistock, established three ‘task and finish groups’ of mental health nurses, clinical and policy experts, as well as people who have lived experience of mental illness and use of services, such as patients, families and carers. These groups were asked to look at three key areas - mental health nursing and serious mental illness; children and young people’s mental health; and improving population and public health outcomes.

The new report outlines eight system-wide recommendations, addressing issues including career progression and encouraging nurses to remain in the profession.  

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock said: “It has been a privilege to chair this review, working with service users and senior mental health nurses to examine relevant literature and data to inform recommendations for the future development of the profession. The final recommendations clearly demonstrate what can be done to ensure that mental health nursing thrives and is sufficiently robust to provide high quality care to the populations it serves.

“I thank everyone who has given their time and expertise to the production of this report. I trust that it will inform future plans and investment for mental health nursing at such a crucial time for the profession and the NHS in general, to help ensure there are sufficient numbers of well-educated mental health nurses to meet the needs of the populations we serve today and in the future.”

Mark Radford, Chief Nurse at HEE, said: “Mental health nursing is a phenomenal career that offers the expertise, knowledge and skills to have a life-changing impact on individuals and our communities. For decades, this profession has been a critical part of our national health and social care system – so it is therefore vital that we look at the challenges facing our nurses and what can be done to address them.

“In bringing together a wide range of service users and staff in a thorough review of the nature of mental health nursing, this review has highlighted areas for improvement and development that can be taken forward by the profession and other partners.”

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