News

Fall in mental health nurses threatens care, report says

A fall in the number of mental health nurses is affecting quality and safety of care, according to a report that says their number has fallen by 13% since 2009, and one in ten of all posts in specialist mental health services is vacant

Catherine_Gamble_tile_BN
The RCN’s Catherine Gamble says staffing problems at some mental health trusts
are so serious that the safety of patients is being compromised.
Picture: Barney Newman​

A fall in the number of mental health nurses is affecting quality and safety of care, according to a report by health think tank the King's Fund.

The number of mental health nurses has fallen by 13% since 2009, and one in ten of all posts in specialist mental health services is vacant, it said.

Analysis of Care Quality Commission inspection reports for 54 mental health trusts identified an increased risk to patient safety as a result of problems with staffing in more than half of them, the report said.

It said a funding gap between the amount spent on acute hospitals and mental health trusts has widened in England, with the income of mental health trusts rising less than 2.5% in 2016-17 compared with over 6% for acute and specialist trusts.

Parity of esteem

The findings prompted a warning from the RCN that parity of esteem between mental and physical health will never be achieved unless there are enough mental health nurses to support recovery and care for people with mental health problems.

RCN professional lead for mental health Catherine Gamble said: 'Staffing problems at some mental health trusts are so serious that the safety of patients is being compromised. The RCN revealed last year that there are now 5,000 fewer mental health nurses than in 2010, one of the greatest reductions in specialist nursing.

'Mental health nurses struggle daily to meet the needs of patients, families and carers in a highly complex and undervalued role. This cannot be allowed to continue.'

Investment overlooked

NHS England national mental health director Claire Murdoch said: 'Specialist mental health trusts remain integral to patient care, but any analysis of funding which looks only at spending by these trusts will overlook around one third of investment in mental health services, which now stands at over £12 billion.

'While it will take time to undo years of under-investment, local mental health funding last year went up nearly twice as much as the overall rise in health spending, and the King's Fund itself acknowledges that the great majority of local clinical commissioning groups have met their commitments to raise spending on mental health.'


Further information

In other news

 

This is a free article for registered users

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this? You can register for free access.

Jobs