RCN says more nurses are needed to achieve mental health 'transformation'

The college has questioned whether the government’s plans for mental health services can be achieved if nurse numbers continue to decline

The RCN has asked how the government’s pledge to transform mental health services can be met while mental health nursing numbers are declining.

Prime minister David Cameron set out today how the government plans to spend almost £1 billion on mental health services.

This includes £290 million over the next five years to provide mental health care for new mothers and £247 million for liaison mental health services in emergency departments.

Waiting time targets for teenagers with eating disorders and people experiencing psychosis will be introduced, and more than £400 million for crisis home resolution teams to provide 24-hour care in the community as an alternative to hospitals.

But RCN head of policy Howard Catton said: 'There are serious unanswered questions about how these services can be delivered when the number of mental health nurses is still declining, with almost 5,000 posts being lost since 2010.

‘These nurses are the quiet heroes of mental health services, helping people in crisis and keeping people as well as possible.
‘While more training places are being created, there remains a large gap between the level of demand and the number of staff available.’

Health Education England has commissioned an extra 100 training places for mental health nurses in 2016/17, leading to a total of 3,343 training places (compared with 3,243 in 2015/16).

Mr Catton said an increase of 100 places a year will never be enough to ‘catch up with years of under-investment’.

He added: ‘Without a marked increase in the staff and resources available, the reality of mental health care is not going to be matched by the rhetoric.’

The government’s plans are drawn from recommendations by an independent mental health taskforce set up by NHS England.

A report will be published over the coming weeks and will include a five-year mental health strategy for the NHS.

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