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Exclusive: Gaps in mental health nurse training pose 'huge problem'

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Serious gaps in nurse training have been identified in key mental health therapies that are set to form part of new government standards for treating psychosis from next year.

New standards require that, from April 2016, more than half of all people experiencing a first episode of psychosis should be treated with a care package that complies with National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance within two weeks of referral.

“Some have been trained but due to shrinking teams they haven’t been able to keep up with their supervision or accreditation to deliver the therapy”

Sarah Amani

NICE states that treatment offered should include cognitive behavioural therapy, family therapy interventions, physical health monitoring, and vocational support.

But 70-80% of the staff expected to deliver the packages do not have up-to-date training in each of the four areas of treatment, suggests a recent workforce survey.

It covered 280 staff, including around 130 community psychiatric nurses, at the 16 mental health providers offering early intervention in psychosis (EIP) services in the south of England.

The research was coordinated by mental health nurse Sarah Amani, a senior programme manager for the Early Intervention in Psychosis Preparedness Programme (South of England), which was set up by NHS England ahead of the new standards being introduced.

 

Early Intervention in Psychosis Preparedness Programme (South of England)

Sarah Amani – Source: Peter Searle

Ms Amani’s team will be distributing £1m across the region to providers to ensure nurses and other clinicians are trained to help meet the new standards by next year.

She told Nursing Times that the current gaps in training in her region were a “huge problem” for nurses and that she suspected the same would be occurring nationally.

A combination of factors had contributed to this lack of training, she said, including too few opportunities to attend courses and little financial incentive to do so.

“HEE has both funding and a strategy in place to train staff where gaps are present”

Health Education England

For those nurses who were trained, some were unable to keep their skills up to date due to high workloads and a lack of time to deliver the treatment in addition to their original role, she said.

“It’s not as simple as saying none of them are trained in things like CBT and family intervention,” said Ms Amani.

“Some have been trained but due to shrinking teams they haven’t been able to keep up with their supervision or accreditation to deliver the therapy, so they have reverted back to their generic role of being a community psychiatric nurse and care coordinator,” she added.

A spokeswoman for Health Education England said: “HEE is currently working closely with NHS England and the four regional EIP Preparedness Teams to fully understand skill gaps across professions in advance of the April 2016 service delivery standards.

“HEE has both funding and a strategy in place to train staff where gaps are present. This will be implemented during the next six months,” she said.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • No surprises here. You get what you pay for. I'd be interested to see the reality gap between HEE's proposed funding/strategy delivery in a six month period & real terms impact for staff and service users.

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  • So many people who apply for the courses are being turned down especially by the major universities whose criteria for joining such courses are sometimes biased.

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