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Nurses 'may deliver psychotherapy'


Non-specialist mental health nurses could provide effective psychotherapy for patients with depression, leading to savings for the NHS, preliminary research indicates.

A study found staff with minimal training would be able to successfully carry out behavioural activation, a form of psychotherapy, to treat those suffering from severe depression.

Psychotherapies are currently carried out by specialist therapists, but using less-qualified staff could be similarly effective and could save the NHS money, the study by the Mental Health Research Centre at Durham University found.

The study saw mental health nurses undertake five days of training in behavioural activation and one hour of clinical supervision every fortnight.

David Ekers, a nurse consultant at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys Foundation Trust and honorary clinical lecturer at Durham University, said: “The results indicate that with limited training, generic mental health workers can be trained to deliver clinically effective behavioural activation to people with long-standing depression.”

He said that although the study was small-scale and bigger trials were needed, the results so far were promising.

Fewer than 10% of people suffering from depression currently get access to psychological therapy if they are in need of it, according to estimates.

The findings, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, could pave the way for the use of mental health nurses in treating depression, helping to ease the pressure on specialist therapists, who are often in demand, and increase access to psychotherapies.

Durham University conducted the research in conjunction with the University of York and the University of Exeter.

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Should nurses be the ones to deliver psychotherapy?

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Readers' comments (8)

  • This article is crass in the extreme. Generic psychiatric nurses have been using this technique for donkey's years, even before the fancy new terminology and 'specialist therapists'. Although the poorly worded title suggests we need permission, it's what we do!!!!

    I feel this implies that generic psych nurses are only fit to carry the tissue box and is offensive in the same way adult nurses may feel offended by being designated as bed pan carriers.

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  • Ah, but there's a difference. I am a clinical nurse specialist bed pan carrier. sorry!

    I thought all nurses in mental health were specialists and delivered psychotherapy treatments. isn't that what they do? or are the nhs going to get rid of them and recruit non-specialists in mental health (whatever this means) and train them in some basic psychotherapy and once again patients will get short shrift tretment as they are in other areas which can be detrimental to their health and of little benefit to them. Another NHS disaster in the name of cutting costs at the expense of the patient. I wonder whether the old treatment of none at all wouldn't be the better option in this case.
    or maybe we could all apply to do the course whether we are specialist nurses or not and put up gold plates on our doors to compliment our salaries and make all the psychotherapists who have undergone years of training and experience redundant.

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  • All Psychiatric Nurse are trained to carry out psychological therapy. What the Government needs to do is to ensure that there are enough staff on the wards/units to carry out appropriate therapy to help patient recover, rather then spending a lot of time completing unecessary forms. We are trained nurses and we are able to do this therapy if we are supported and given time to carry ou this procedure. You do not need to have specialist nurse tod. this. Employ more nurses so service users get the appropriate support. Too much focus on psychologist do this therapy when you have a workforce that can deliver.
    The government and Trust need to get their acts together and allow MH NURSES to do what they have been trained to do. We can do a better job then any specialist because service user will trust us more then the specialist who will only see them for a short period or put on a waiting list.
    Come on, it is about time you utilise the nurses more then you are now........

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  • Yes I agree with anonymous 18 Feb 6.35pm
    Aren't MH nurses trained in basic counselling skills + psych therapy, and as a specialist over generic nursed are paid a little more to start their career. I'm not sure what quality the 5 day course is, how many hours per day, and how much clinical supervision. But having done a year part time counselling skills, cpcab, course, with lots of peer practicing, skills development work + portfolio building, I believe I've only touched the tip of the iceberg.
    To "save money" and not properly train specialists will end in tears for clients as well as staff. A lot of long term damage can be done and could cost more money further down the line. Sounds like they need more "specialists" not less so that real savings to peoples lives can be had and also to benefit economy at large.
    I'm currently not even a bedpan specialist, otherwise they'd instantly get one when required, just work bl**dy hard managing my patients care. Would like to see specialists + medics get their hands dirty when I'm in middle of med rounds making sure i get everything right.

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  • What's the difference between Mental Health nurse (TMN or RN3) and a Psychiatric nurse?
    Is it like difference btn psychiatry + psychology? ;)

    Yes they should leave the professionals to do their jobs, stop tinkering and making cuts which harms patients' care.

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  • As a mental health nurse I have been delivering therapies for years, as well as a form of CBT that came years before the fancy terminology came about. Whats interesting is that I was rejected from being an accredited member of a psychological society as I wasnt qualified. Yet if i do a quick diploma in CBT i would be qualified. The whole thing is a joke and nurses, as always, totaly undervalued. We are not professionals, we are pen pushing form fillers. Let the unqualified people have the jobs I say, then when peoples lives coming crashing down in the NHS and other sectors I will enjoy saying "told you so"

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  • nhs will just becoming a cheap option run by un- and under qualified staff for those who do not have the means to pay. all qualifed staff will be moving to the private sector.

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  • POLL
    Should nurses be the ones to deliver psychotherapy?


    the question here is inadequate. it should ask whether mental health nurses with appropriate training should deliver psychotherapy, if that is what they want to know.

    To a nurse who has done a one week course, I would answer 'No'.

    Psychotherapy, in my view, requires considerable background knowledge and experience which cannot be learned in a few days otherwise one might as well use counsellors who have only had basic training or a friend with a good listening ear.

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