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Mental health nursing services have reached ‘tipping point’

  • 10 Comments

Mental health provision has returned to the crisis point it was in more 30 years ago, with nursing staff facing “intolerable pressures”, a leading mental health nursing expert has warned.

Cuts in funding and qualified staff – and the merging of some services – have contributed to strains on services at levels of severity not seen since the 1980s, according to Alan Simpson, professor of collaborative mental health nursing at City University London.

“We are returning to caseload figures and demands on services not seen since the 1980s”

Alan Simpson

His comments follow the publication of official figures in The Guardian newspaper  showing a more than 10% drop in the number of qualified nurses working in psychiatry in the past five years.

The figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre were provided in response to a parliamentary question from Labour and show the number of psychiatric nurses fell from 41,320 in 2010 to 36,870 in 2015.

The number of nurses working in community psychiatry fell only slightly from 15,986 to 15,826. However those described as working in “other psychiatry” – mainly inpatient units – dropped from 25,334 to 21,044.

The stats support previous research by the Royal College of Nursing and others revealing significant reductions in mental health nursing posts and widespread staffing shortages at trusts.

Professor Simpson said he feared the sector had now reached a “tipping point”, where “the combination of pressures has pushed things too far for users of services, their families and the staff who try their hardest to provide quality services”.

Alan Simpson: 'Peer support in mental health needs a welcome, not wariness'

Mental health nursing services now at ‘tipping point’

Alan Simpson

Recent research by City University into community mental health provision had uncovered deep fears about the impact of cuts as organisations strived to make savings, he added.

“Service users and carers want more contact with qualified care co-ordinators, not less and see the quality of those relationships as key to recovery, returning to work and living a full life,” said Professor Simpson, who called for urgent investment in the sector and better support for hard-pressed staff.

“Mental health nurses and other staff are now under intolerable pressures as we are returning to caseload figures and demands on services not seen since the 1980s,” he said.

  • 10 Comments

Readers' comments (10)

  • Lessening of employment rights + revalidation + standardisation - gimmicks + political interference + hostile management + lack of support + lack of numbers + those retiring + bullying & harassment + political correctness + assaults on staff & patients + passing the buck to nurses + no frontline leadership + bad written & practical legislation + management mass denial + no real learning opportunities + toxic work environments + paperwork overload = oops just tipped

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  • I am chairman of a mental health charity, we are also having our funding cut at the same time. We have been picking up a far greater workload across the sector up by 150 percent in 2 years, then we are hit with a 16 percent cut in funding that will decimate how we support the statutory sector. We open 7 days a week providing crisis and drop in support without an appointment, this cut is very likely to close us on Saturday and Sunday out busiest time, where will they go? A & E! Our cuts have been implemented by financial guru's, who have no insight and no interest in the human impact this will have. We averted 3 suicides in December alone.
    The future of Mental Health care is looking ominous.

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  • A cup of tea.......I agree with all the above. Also i have a fantasy about opening a centre for the community to drop in and have a cuppa,piece of cake,read magazines, inter-act,make friends and promote community spirit. But not necessarily people with mental health problems. It would address social isolation and loneliness which impacts on mental health I might add.A big hearty hug from some one who cares is so therapeutic

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  • Spot on Clive, love to come and have a cup of tea with all of the above. Financial gurus & spin sounds about right.

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  • Sorry, looks like the spelling gremlins ate my previous comment, here is a much clearer version!
    I am the chairman of a mental health charity, we are also having our funding cut at the same time. We have been picking up a far greater workload across the sector up by 150 percent in 2 years, then we are hit with a 16 percent cut in funding that will decimate how we support the statutory sector. We open 7 days a week providing crisis and drop in support without an appointment, this cut is very likely to close us on Saturday and Sunday out busiest time, where will they go? A & E! We work in direct support of the CMHT and Foundation Trust with all our services. Our cuts have been implemented by financial guru's, who have no insight and no interest in the human impact this will have. We averted 3 suicides in December alone.
    The future of Mental Health care is looking ominous.

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  • Can someone please explain &amp

    Never seen it used before, is it predictive text

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  • What also should be borne in mind is what those figures about community MH nurses disguise: down banding of posts; loss of senior, experienced nurses and their replacement by people on lower bands with little or no experience in MH.

    For instance, back in 2012 my old CAMH service had a "re-structuring" in which several Band 7 nurses (all with predominantly clinical roles) were removed. If we were replaced, and a couple weren't, it was by Band 5 posts. To make matters worse several of the folk appointed did not have a MH background, rather LD.

    This has also happened in OT and psychology.

    Numbers never tell the full story.

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  • We are seeing the same thing here in the States. New Hampshire Hospital has added a new ten bed unit and cannot open due to a lack of nursing staff.

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  • I am a HCA working on an acute inpatient ward. I am a former RGN and would love to become an RMN. However, there is no mechanism for me to do this without first doing a Return to Practice course, returning to the NMC register as an RGN and then doing my RMN. I do not wish to do this and would even be happy to pay the fees to do the PgDip/RMN course in 2 years. The 'system' won't allow this. So I am destined to remain a HCA. I could offer so much more!

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  • WHi Thomas, It seems to be a real problem internationally! Unlike Britain I understand America possesses statistics regarding the amount of nurses holding license but not practising. As yet Britain has not harnessed this issue properly and should identify where this is an issue, especially in regard to retention and post qualification. There is much about attempting to attract a younger workforce into nursing but not so good where you have no experience to draw upon. In effect what is being encouraged is conveyor belt cannon fodder nursing, where experience has simply gone. The government & local trusts should be asking how do we entice back highly experienced & knowledgeable nurse before its too late. The government would be wise to hold off on NMC revalidatation before too late. This April I suspect maybe crunch time for many services and many nurses. Let's hope common sense prevails but I doubt the British government or Jeremy Hunt will listen. Good luck with the unit staff numbers.

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