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E-learning is wrong for mental health roles

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Over the years it has become common to see nurses take on the roles and responsibilities of other professionals.

It is now the turn of mental health nurses who, from this autumn, following changes to the Mental Health Act, will be able to train as approved mental health professionals (AMHPs) and make decisions about whether patients should be detained.

Currently, such decisions are reached following medical assessment and assessment by an approved social worker.

I am following my colleague’s approved social worker training with interest as I may undertake the AMHP role later this year.

Her training is at postgraduate level and is academic and practice-focused. The course is delivered via lectures, role-play and working alongside approved social workers. Lively debates about the ethical and moral responsibilities of detaining patients are common.

I was therefore concerned to read that Swansea University’s training for nurses to become AMHPs includes an e-learning package for those who are
unable to attend in person (NT Opportunities, 18 March, p33).

Do we really want nurses to take on this new role through e-learning? What about discussion, debates and role-play with other students?

To deliver balanced assessments and treatment, it is essential that training prepares the AMHP to remain an independent professional who can liaise effectively with both patient and family to reach the appropriate decision.

Let’s not set ourselves up to fail with training that may not be able to provide us with the skills we need. Mental health nurses – let’s not be seduced by this modern and cheap way of learning. Let’s insist that we are trained face to face to ensure that we have the best preparation for this complex new role. Our patients deserve it.

Victoria Sharman, community mental health nurse, Hertfordshire

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