The lack of a single registration for nurses trained in both physical and mental health is a workforce education model “built for asylums”, a chief nurse at a London mental health provider has said.
Claire Johnston, director of nursing and people at Camden and Islington NHS Foundation trust, warned the current system for training nurses – which forces them to specialise in a certain discipline – was a barrier to ensuring mental health was placed on the same footing as physical health.
“It is positively 19th century that we are still working in a model built for asylums”
Ms Johnston pointed to the lower life expectancy of patients with mental health problems, but noted it was their physical conditions – such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or type 2 diabetes – that would cause their death.
She described it as “so disheartening” to see nurses ill equipped to manage patients that have both mental and physical health problems.
Speaking at Nursing Times’ Deputies’ Congress event earlier this week, Ms Johnston told the audience of deputy directors of nursing that “your generation can sort that”.
“It is positively 19th century that we are still working in a model that is presumably built for the asylums which we no longer have, whereby we have registered general nurses and registered mental health nurses,” said Ms Johnston at the event in London.
“Your generation can sort that,” she said. “And I think within five years, hopefully, we will have that single registration.
“Otherwise, all of the plans, all of the aspirations and dreams that we have to reduce that parity of esteem gap with patients with mental health problems dying up to 20 years earlier are going to be wasted,” she warned.
“[Without] single registration… all of the plans we have to reduce that parity of esteem gap are going to be wasted”
Last year, a major review of nurse education recommended a new model that would see students spending more time on general training – including both physical and mental health – before specialising in adult, children’s, mental health, learning disability nursing or other new fields.
The Shape of Caring review’s recommendations are currently being considered by the Nursing and Midwifery Council and workforce planning body Health Education England.
The NMC also agreed last month that it would begin revising its pre-registration education standards for nurses, with students starting on the new courses from 2019, after it found they were not fit for the future.