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Two thirds of mental health nurses report staff shortages – survey

RCN calls for urgent investment to grow the workforce in the specialism

RCN calls for urgent investment to grow the workforce in the specialism


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Almost two thirds of the mental health nurses who took part in a survey reported staff shortages during their last shift.

The poll of 390 mental health nurses in England – conducted by the British Medical Association (BMA), RCN and Association of Clinical Psychologists – found that 65% reported a shortage of one or more nursing staff.


Catherine Gamble

RCN professional lead for mental health Catherine Gamble said the survey ‘hammers home the reality of the chronic workforce shortages that have plagued our profession’.

She added: ‘Nurses aren’t able to spend time with families, develop therapeutic relationships and implement psychosocial interventions.’   

Ms Gamble called for urgent investment to grow the mental health nursing workforce.

The survey also gathered the opinions of a further 646 healthcare professionals working in mental health settings, including doctors and clinical psychologists.

Staff report unmanageable workloads

Other key findings from all respondents included: 

  • 52% said they were too busy to provide the care they would like on their last shift worked
  • 44% said their individual workload was either mostly unmanageable or unmanageable 

Government highlights new student grants and clinical placements

A Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson said the government was taking immediate action to increase mental health nurse numbers.

‘This includes funding more than 5,000 extra university clinical placements, as well as bolstering the workforce through increased international recruitment,’ they said.

However, they added that the government was not planning to offer any incentive for mental health nurses to come and work in the UK.

According to the Nursing and Midwifery Council, between October 2018 and September 2019 a total of 8,005 nurses joined the register from overseas – but only 40 of those were mental health nurses.  

The DHSC spokesperson said that all nursing students would receive an annual grant of at least £5,000 starting this September, which would help to increase mental health nurse numbers.


Read the survey report


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