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Scrapping student bursary risks future mental health nursing workforce, report warns

Plans to scrap student bursaries risk worsening a recruitment crisis in mental health nursing, a report has warned.

Plans to scrap student bursaries risk worsening a recruitment crisis in mental health nursing, a report has warned.

A total of 83 per cent of NHS trusts in England are having problems filling posts, with mental health nursing and consultant psychiatrist jobs being the most difficult to fill gaps.

Challenges in recruitment

The report by the Education Policy Institute into children and young people’s mental health says recruitment challenges are leading to soaring agency staff costs.

There has been an 82 per cent rise in temporary staff spending in two years, with almost £50 million spent by 32 trusts in 2015/16, finds the report, Progress and Challenges in the Transformation of Children and Young People’s Mental Health.

Government's announcement setbacks

It also highlights the potential repercussions of the government’s announcement last month to replace nursing bursaries in England with tuition fees and loans from August 2017 – despite promises the plan will lead to 10,000 more training places.

‘The risk, however, is that the change from a grant to a loan will lead to a reduction in applications for these posts, further undermining the ability of providers to recruit for mental health nursing and allied health professional posts,’ the report warns.

Applicant numbers fall

The report’s research found 51 instances of a post being advertised by a trust only receiving two or fewer applicants. Some 80 per cent of trusts had to advertise posts on multiple occasions to fill roles.

RCN professional lead for children and young people’s nursing Fiona Smith said: 'The difficulty recruiting children and young people’s mental health nurses is symptomatic of the nationwide nursing shortage. Alongside falling levels of other support such as school nurses and health visitors, mental health services for children are fast diminishing.'

She added: 'A solid and effective workforce could not only help children in need now, but prevent numerous complications down the line.'

The report is the conclusion of the Commission on Children and Young People’s Mental Health, chaired by former health minister Norman Lamb.


Further information

Progress and Challenges in the Transformation of Young People's Mental Health Care report

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