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Exclusive: mental health trusts criticise quality of new nurses


Mental health trusts in London have slammed the quality of newly qualified nurses coming out of courses in the capital, Nursing Times has learnt.

Documents revealed in a Freedom of Information request show trust representatives criticising universities for producing “poor” newly qualified mental health nurses during a consultation exercise on standards.

The documents stated: “Trusts received an average of 30 plus applications per band 5 post and nearly half the respondents reported that as few as 0-4 applications were from ‘appointable’ candidates”.

The documents also reveal that the comments were cited by strategic health authority NHS London as grounds for carrying out a tendering exercise to find the best qualified higher education institutions in the capital.

A similar review for adult nursing courses in January resulted in the University of West London not being awarded numbers for future adult nursing cohorts, though it is still currently teaching its existing ones.

A spokesman for NHS London said it had subsequently decided that “whilst individual trusts strongly supported an intervention, there was not a collective consensus that such a response was necessary”.

There will instead be a nursing director-led “defined quality improvement programme to improve outcomes [from courses]”, he said.

An NHS senior source told Nursing Times that while the quality of mental health nurses produced by the universities was variable, the overall quality was not as bad as the document suggested.

The Council of Deans of Health, which represents nursing education providers, had not responded to requests for comment before Nursing Times went to press.

Mental health nursing is the second-largest type of nurse training commissioned by NHS London, with a student intake of 740 in 2011-12. The average attrition rate for the courses across the nine London universities is 31%, according to the SHA.


Readers' comments (33)

  • I believe that has to do with the courses are more focused on acadamics Less on client care but thats only my view

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  • what a surprise shame it took a FOI to obtain this information.

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  • Why should this come as a surprise? It has been apparent for some years now, that newly qualified nurses lack the breadth of knowledge and experience that their hospital-trained forbears enjoyed. This can only result in less able nurses at the end of the day. Not the fault of the nurses - but rather their training - or the way it was designed, at least.

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  • There is such a high expectation from academically trained nurses, largely from themselves, which is what you would expect. Therefore, it is sad that these courses aren't producing the quality of nurse that is required to fill a post-registered post. It makes it even more scarey that the proposal of one Trust to provide a further 4 years training to 'elite' nurses (their description, not mine) to go straight into a sister/charge nurse post. Perhaps nurse education/training should be 2 years initially, one year in a totally practical setting, then the final year back to completing a degree.

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  • BULLSH*T!! Especially Anonymous | 13-Jun-2012 2:53 pm!!

    I am sick and tired of comments and arguments like this, doing newly qualifieds down.

    At the end of the day the academisation of the profession, whilst needing improvement, is a GOOD thing.

    BUT, you are all also responsible for the training of these newly qualifieds. They spend HALF their time in hospital, supposedly gaining the sacred "breadth of knowledge and experience that their hospital-trained forbears enjoyed."

    So if they aren't up to par, then we ALL as a profession need to take at least 50% of the responsibility! I know you 'older hospital trained and therefore supposedly superior' nurses don't want to hear that but it is true.

    I have been a nurse for a fair while now, but still remember my student days, and I remember many placements that were horrendous, were nurses refused to teach, counted me in the numbers as a HCA, and I still see that today. But I had good ones too, where I learned from so many people on how to nurse, on how to utilise practically the academic knowledge I had gained. THESE placements made me a good nurse, and that is what I try and give to my students now. I can give them the practical experience of nursing tasks, the confidence in how to apply their knowledge and act when necessary, the experience of the daily tasks that aren't covered in academia that they will be expected to do such as management and paperwork, and in return they can teach me too, about advancements in research that I had missed, they can make me see again with fresh eyes.

    I agree the nursing course needs improving, it did in my day too, but so do the hospital placements, and apparently so do the attitudes of many nurses.

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  • tinkerbell

    i don't know much about Dame Christine Beadsley but on one of these articles she wrote that the nursing profession 'loves to eat their young'. I could see her point. Not all, but some, love to parade either their academia or experience as though we are playing the card game 'trumps' with one another. We are all part of the nursing body as a whole and should be supporting and encouraging one another regardless. My years of experience doesn't trump your degree, we compliment one another. I can teach you and you can teach me, we are never too old to learn. It's a shared experence.

    I remember as a student whislt making a bed with an older battleaxe she telling me that i would never make a 'proper nurse'. My crime was that as we made the bed i threw the old sheet on the floor. Obviously my bed making skills left a lot to be desired then but she made no allowances that i was brand new to the game. We were making this bed at such a frantic pace with nowhere where to put the old sheets maybe i was just meant to eat them. I realised she had 'issues' and just let it go.

    When a doctor dragged me in to assist him taking some bloods and i was clueless he asked me 'how long have you been a nurse?'I replied 'well actually only 5 minutes this is my first student placement and i have just arrived on the ward'. He did apologise.

    All this huffing and puffing amongst us doesn't change the fact that nurses are now trained to degree level. It's a fact. I don't think we should all be getting into a bun fight with each other about it. It's a done deal.There will always be the 'theory practice gap' until you are out there in the field on a regular basis putting that knowledge into practice and learning through and from the experience. Putting the knowledge into practice creates the 'understanding'.

    If we stopped trying to find fault with one another maybe we would see that we have more in common than our differences, we all want to be nurses hopefully and help others, that includes helping each other.

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  • it has to be remembered that negative, non-constructive criticism and bullying often arises out of the insecurities and shortcomings of those who made them and may have nothing to do with the abilities of the person being criticised. They are rarely helpful and should be taken for what they are at face value and if possible should not be taken personally. Any subjective and personal criticism that is designed to cause offence is not acceptable.

    One should be able to build a defensive shell against this type of criticism (often easier said than done as one can be caught unawares), taking on board only what is useful, and responding firmly to let the other know that is is unjustified, unreasonable and unacceptable.

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  • if there is an issue with continuous disturbing behaviour from a team member perhaps it would be worth recording on a tiny recorder in one's pocket and passing it on to those in charge?

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 14-Jun-2012 12:22 pm

    it sounds like a good idea but maybe it would be illegal :) Seek advice first.

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  • tinkerbell | 14-Jun-2012 1:05 pm

    could be illegal. worth finding out though.

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