Children and young people’s mental health nursing faces a perfect storm, MPs hear

Cuts in education, CPD and school nursing are hampering services, says RCN

Cuts in education, CPD and school nursing are hampering services, says RCN

Dame Donna Kinnair giving evidence to the Commons public accounts committee

Cuts to nurse education and bursaries coupled with vacancies are affecting children and young people's mental health services, healthcare experts have told MPs.

The RCN's acting general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair told a cross-party group there is a gap between need and nurses’ ability to provide mental health services.

Workforce shortfall

‘It isn’t that nobody wants to provide the service, we just don’t have the ability with the workforce we have,' she told the Commons' public accounts committee this week.

‘We’ve created almost the perfect storm, particularly for the nursing profession: we’ve cut education, taken away continuing professional development, so it is almost impossible to gain the extra skills needed.’

The government announced £1.4 billion of funding for England's child and adolescent mental health services between 2016/17 and 2020/21 after it emerged thousands were being refused treatment because they did not meet eligibility criteria.

Extra funding

Earlier this week chancellor Philip Hammond promised an extra £2 billion a year for mental health services, including children and young people's services.

Professor Kinnair told the committee school nursing had ‘almost been eradicated’.

She said: ‘What we know in the next two years is that there are going to be even more cuts to local authorities which means more cuts to school nursing and health visiting.’

She called for the commissioning of health visiting and school nursing, currently commissioned by local authorities, to be returned to the NHS to avoid the current ‘piecemeal approach’.

Effect of nursing bursary's demise

Health Education England chief executive Ian Cummings said the loss of student bursaries had caused the numbers of mature students, who had been historically attracted to mental health nursing, to plummet.

He said: ‘We've seen a broadly flat level of people applying for mental health nurse training places over the last two or three years.'  He added this trend coincided with the demise of the nursing bursary.

He said HEE was trying to combat the loss by focusing on pathways to qualification that allow people to train while working.

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