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Improving mental health nursing gaps will be ‘challenging’

Reducing the 7,600 nursing and midwifery vacancies across England’s mental health services will be a ‘challenge’, senior health figures have admitted.

Reducing the 7,600 nursing and midwifery vacancies across England’s mental health services will be a ‘challenge’, senior health figures have admitted.


NHS England national mental health director Claire Murdoch

NHS England national mental health director Claire Murdoch also warned against pessimism among those within – and outside – the specialty.

‘We have got to stop saying things have never been worse or more miserable,’ she told the NHS Health and Care Innovation Expo 2017.

Access to high-quality care

Ms Murdoch was speaking at the conference in Manchester to promote Stepping Forward to 2020-21: the mental health workforce plan for England, which was launched in July.

It aims to ensure an additional one million people are treated by mental health services by 2021 and those in need have access to high-quality, well-trained staff whenever they need them, as outlined by the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health.

The NHS funds a total workforce of 214,000 people in mental health services from medical to clinical and perinatal to community, the Stepping Forward plan highlights.

Unfilled posts

However, 20,100 (10%) posts remain unfilled – 7,600 of them nurses and midwives.

Health Education England director of nursing Lisa Bayliss-Pratt admitted she had been on a ‘steep learning curve’ since the forward view was launched.

She added she knew the workforce landscape ‘did not look brilliant at the moment’ but insisted she was determined to ‘make it look much better in the future'.

Workforce planning

Professor Bayliss-Pratt explained there was no one size fits all policy for workforce planning. She added that she was using NHS reforms – under the Sustainability Transformation Plan process – to ensure the necessary funding would be available to train and recruit staff to reduce the vacancy rate.

NHS Improvement executive director of nursing Ruth May revealed the aim was to reduce the vacancy rate to around 5%, adding that 50% of NHS resources were being targeted specifically at mental health.

She added: ‘Retention of staff is a key priority. We need to know why people are leaving the specialty because we are going to be making a lot of policy decisions based on that evidence.’


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