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'Focusing on public mental health could save the NHS millions'


Hosting the Nursing Times Awards, getting expert views on public mental health and updating my resuscitation skills have made for an interesting couple of weeks.

Last week we hosted the Nursing Times Awards at the Hilton Park Lane. Aside from giving me an excuse to don a posh frock, and get my hair and make-up done, it made me fall in love with nursing all over again.

The sheer delight on the faces of the large teams that took to the stage to raise their trophies aloft is a memory that will stay with me for a very long time. Unbridled joy I think they call it.

Time and time again in the past few days since last Wednesday night at the ceremony, guests have phoned or emailed or told me how good the atmosphere was at the evening was and how much they enjoyed it. The biggest compliment the awards team and I can be paid is by someone who tells us how much they loved the event even if they didn’t win. Nurses are, of course, used to grace under fire, but I’ve been to quite a few awards ceremonies and it’s pretty rare to find a room full of people so genuinely intent on having a good time and being magnanimous about other people’s victories. It’s a rare quality, and to see it in such abundance makes me incredibly proud of this profession.

NT Awards 2010

NT Awards 2010

This week, I’ve been to the Mental Health Congress, organised by Emap Networks, at Kensington Olympia. The mental health and wellbeing agenda is so important to public health as a whole, we were told by Simon Lawton-Smith, head of policy for the Mental Health Foundation, who took to the stage early on in the programme on day one.

He defined mental health as not just the absence of mental illness but feeling well - and said that eating healthily, exercising and making good decisions around sexual health are all connected to mental wellbeing. In short, ensure someone’s mental state is positive, and you could save the NHS thousands of pounds, as well as really improve your patients’ wellbeing.

An impressive line-up of speakers gathered behind this opening in four streams running throughout the day to bolster his theory, and show how the efforts they had made had made a difference.

There was also a fifth stream in the well-populated exhibition area to give delegates more hands-on experience. Topics included conflict resolution, recognising and dealing with stress in the workplace and the very practical lunchtime session on updating your resuscitation skills, which I had a go at. I am not sure if the resuscitation skills session was scheduled to help those who found their conflict resolution skills weren’t up to scratch - but I hope not.

Rachel Hunter, who was running the workshops on stress, said she’s seen an increasing number of senior nurses using her services. She says that as staff in hospitals and primary care situations have retired or been made redundant recently, the workload and therefore stress of existing staff, including many nurses, has increased.

Her session was to help senior nurses identify which of their staff may be suffering and give them a toolkit to help them manage the issues. She travels all over the country providing this support for every kind of worker from teachers to shop assistants, and says it is very effective at reducing absenteeism, boosting morale and helping staff cope with change.

She offers a variety of courses that can be tailored to individual groups, but help managers to identify the early signs of stress, train their staff in coping with it, and introduce measures to reduce workplace stress, as well as giving delegates a thorough understanding of the laws surrounding employment and this issue.

Other topics include time management and assertiveness and confidence in the workplace. See

I figured that working with nurses so much, the least I could do was put down my delicious four-cheese ravioli at lunchtime long enough to learn the updates to resuscitation on the on-site short course.


It’s been a while since school, when I last learnt my airway, breathing, circulation drill, and so I was keen to improve this area of my life skills. Hopefully, I’ll never need to use it, but it’s given me an even greater admiration for those of you who do every day.


Readers' comments (4)

  • May I just add how stunning you look in your 'posh frock' in the photo above and I am sure, or least hope, you received plenty of compliments from your colleagues not too preoccupied with the other tasks of the meeting.

    If nurses and managers remembered to compliment each other from time, especially for work well done or a small personal compliment perhaps this would help alievate some of the stress of our work. We tend to forget in our stress and hectic that everybody needs attention from time to time which contributes to a healthy life balance. Sometimes one just has a head full of memories of all the negative feedback they have received throughout their working days.

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  • Why do resus courses for non-practicing, non-working nurses cost £100 when we deliver our services in an emergency for free? At that price I would use my old out-of-date skills which would probably work just as well, or not, as in the past, but which I wouldn't feel happy about at all and for preference would prefer not to use my skills at all because of this. As doctors always used to difibrilate on the ward I would like to learn this new method for use, even by the lay public, out in the field.

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  • The headline for this story is about mental health - why are we talking about frocks and resus?

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  • above if you read the article you will know why!

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