Comment

We need to change how we invest in mental health nursing or risk a continuing crisis

More funding is needed to solve staffing shortages in mental health nursing, but it must be shared across a number of areas, says David Wilmott
Picture shows Cygnet Health Care nursing apprenticeship programme students at the University of Wolverhampton. More funding is needed to solve staffing shortages in mental health nursing, but it must be shared across a number of areas, says David Wilmott.

Cygnet Health Care's David Wilmott wants the government to keep to its election pledge of more nurses, but the right measures for retention, training, overseas recruitment and shared funding need to be in place

During the last general election campaign, a headline that readers of this journal may remember most was prime minister Boris Johnsons pledge of 50,000 more nurses over the next five years .

Given that 2020 is designated by the World Health Organization as the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, it was certainly a timely promise. With the reintroduction of an undergraduate nursing grant, lets hope it is one that will

...

Cygnet Health Care's David Wilmott wants the government to keep to its election pledge of more nurses, but the right measures for retention, training, overseas recruitment and shared funding need to be in place

Picture shows Cygnet Health Care nursing apprenticeship programme students at the University of Wolverhampton. More funding is needed to solve staffing shortages in mental health nursing, but it must be shared across a number of areas, says David Wilmott.
Cygnet Health Care nursing apprenticeship programme students
at the University of Wolverhampton

During the last general election campaign, a headline that readers of this journal may remember most was prime minister Boris Johnson’s pledge of 50,000 more nurses over the next five years.

Given that 2020 is designated by the World Health Organization as the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, it was certainly a timely promise. With the reintroduction of an undergraduate nursing grant, let’s hope it is one that will be kept.

To properly address nursing shortages there needs to be a much greater appreciation of the scale of the problem, with a range of measures implemented.

Alternative routes into the nursing profession need to be expanded

First, there needs to be an increase in training capacity. The number of trainee nurses completing undergraduate studies is limited by the number of clinical placements available, so increasing the number of placements would help to ensure that a steady stream of staff enter the sector.

This would also mean expanding the available routes into the profession and ensuring that training is accessible to reduce the attrition rate from one in four, as it was in 2018.

The new undergraduate grant is a welcome step in this regard, acknowledging the financial pressures experienced by nursing students and promoting applications to nursing degrees. However, alternative routes into the profession need to be expanded alongside this.

There should be greater emphasis on expanding and retaining the existing workforce

The NHS has introduced nursing associate apprenticeships, and at Cygnet Health Care we have seen success in our own apprenticeship programme, where ambitious staff members are trained in-house while also receiving lessons from the University of Wolverhampton or the Open University.

This year the first nursing associate apprenticeship cohort will graduate from the Cygnet scheme, and we are also launching a child and adolescent mental health apprenticeship programme. It is to be hoped that across the sector we will see more of these types of schemes, providing opportunities for professional growth that are financially more accessible than university study.

Encouraging more people to train to become nurses will help to address staff shortages, but long lead times mean there also needs to be a greater emphasis on expanding and retaining the existing workforce.

An immigration income threshold must accommodate the average nursing salary

The government’s pledge suggested that vacancies would also be filled through overseas recruitment.

Now the UK has left the European Union and as the government reforms its immigration legislation, it is important that any new laws are based on an income threshold that accommodates the average nursing salary.

The final ingredient needed to expand and strengthen the nursing workforce is a greater emphasis on continuing professional development (CPD). In particular, to reduce existing high rates of attrition across the sector, I would welcome greater protection of time for CPD through higher staffing levels and operational changes.

It is also essential to ensure an effective support network for nurses alongside a more flexible work environment that recognises the importance of employee welfare.

Ultimately, large increases in funding are going to be required to address staffing shortages, especially in mental health nursing. But the point is that funding needs to be shared across a number of areas, so that opportunities to enter, stay and thrive in the profession become even greater.


David Wilmott is director of nursing at Cygnet Health Care. In this article he says more funding is needed to solve staffing shortages in mental health nursing, but it must be shared across a number of areas.David Wilmott is director of nursing at Cygnet Health Care

 

 

Find out more

Want to read more?

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursingmanagement.com
  • Bi-monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs