Nurses have a pivotal role in transforming services for people with mental health conditions and learning disabilities, according to England’s chief nursing officer.
Professor Jane Cummings highlighted a number of existing nurse-led service innovations in the two sectors, while also welcoming 40 existing graduates to a new fast-track nurse training programme.
“In nursing, we are in a hugely responsible and privileged position, leading the way and playing a vital role”
In the keynote speech to clinicians, managers and commissioners, she said nurses would be the key to improving existing provision, as well as leading new services set up under NHS England’s development plan – the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health.
The CNO also emphasised nurses’ crucial role in ensuring that people with learning disabilities received the care they needed.
Professor Cummings was speaking at NHS England’s Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester today, where she highlighted examples in which nurses were already leading the way.
These included the Smoking in Mental Health Programme, which has seen mental health nurses explore ways to support people with mental health problems quit smoking.
“The opportunities for nurses to transform care are challenging but real”
Other nurse-led schemes were helping people with learning disabilities get the support they needed to live independently in the community instead of being cared for in hospital, she noted.
“Incredible work is already taking place helping reduce existing but avoidable health inequalities across the country,” said Professor Cummings.
She added: “In nursing, we are in a hugely responsible and privileged position, leading the way and playing a vital role in improving the lives of people living with a mental health condition or learning disability.”
Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national mental health director, also emphasised the key role of nurses, stating “there has never been a more important or rewarding time to be a mental health nurse”.
“The opportunities for nurses to transform care are challenging but real,” she told delegates at the same conference.
She added: “Addressing need across the age range, in primary care through to highly specialised care in hospitals, working in partnership with others and drawing upon the extensive evidence base for different conditions, will mean no two careers need be the same.”
She noted that nurses and midwives were being supported to take the lead under England’s current national nursing framework – Leading Change: Adding Value – which encourages staff at all levels to look at ways to improve services.
Meanwhile, the CNO announced that 40 existing graduates in other subjects were due to embark on a new fast-track nurse training programme this month.
The postgraduate course, which was announced in March this year, will be delivered by Edge Hill University in Lancashire, King’s College London and the University of Hertfordshire.
It forms part of the Next Steps plan for the NHS and aims to attract high-achieving graduates into the nursing profession, targeting mental health and learning disabilities in the first instance.
“I would like to warmly welcome our newest students to our profession and wish them the very best in their studies and future career,” said Professor Cummings.
“It is an exciting time to be a nurse, specialising in learning disability or mental health, offering many opportunities and making a real difference to the lives of the people we care for,” she added.