Leading academic calls for mental health nurses to highlight the value of the specialty – or face its extinction

Nursing academic urges staff to ‘make some noise and be more political’
Alan Simpson

Nursing academic urges staff to ‘make some noise and be more political’

Mental health nurse researcher Alan Simpson

A leading nurse academic has warned that mental health nursing is in danger of extinction if decisive action is not taken soon.

Nurse researcher Alan Simpson, who leads the Centre for Mental Health Research at City, University of London, said the value of mental health nursing is not recognised by policymakers, and that the profession needed to make its voice heard.

The number of mental health nurses in England fell by almost 5,000 whole-time equivalent staff – from 40,849 to 36,053 – between March 2010 and the same month this year, according to data from NHS Digital.

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Decline and fall

Speaking at the RCN’s International Mental Health Nursing Research conference in Manchester last week, Professor Simpson said: ‘We could be witness to the decline and fall of mental health nursing.

‘We may not feature in some people’s plans for the future, and we have a responsibility to grasp the challenges and provide the evidence to demonstrate that society would be poorer without us.’

Professor Simpson said he welcomed the introduction of new types of mental health workers into the NHS, such as associate practitioners and Improving Access to Psychological Therapies workers.

But he warned that such roles must complement and not replace mental health nurse posts.

‘There is a growing evidence base for the efficacy of these new workers, but where is the evidence base for mental health nurses? How can we justify ourselves without the evidence?’ Professor Simpson asked.

Lack of nursing input

He added that, too often, the mental health nursing voice is absent from policymaking arenas, and that this absence was the specialty’s fault.

‘Many reports don’t mention mental health nursing, and mental health nurses do not contribute to them. Why are we not banging on doors to make sure our voice is heard?

‘We need to make some noise, be more political, join other groups and shout about it. If we don’t wake up, we will be thrown away like a bit of rubbish.’

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