Over 4,000 additional mental health nurses needed in the next five years

4,230 mental health nurses are needed to ensure the Government can deliver the NHS Long Term Plan. 

Matt Bodell
29 July 2019
children and young people’s mental health services

Over 2,000 nurses are required throughout children’s and young people’s mental health services.

A report has revealed that an additional 4,230 mental health nurses are needed to ensure the Government can deliver the NHS Long Term Plan.

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Published last week, the new NHS Mental Health Implementation Plan for 2019-20 to 2023-24 sets out how NHS England aims to deliver on the commitments made for mental health services in the NHS Long Term Plan.

The NHS Long Term Plan promised extensive investment in both acute and community mental health services, with strategies such as liaison support in emergency departments and the introduction of mental nurses in ambulance control rooms.

The report predicts that in five years’ time there should at least an additional; 2,110 nursing staff working in children and young people’s mental health services, 2,010 nursing staff working in acute adult and community care and 110 nursing staff working in perinatal mental health.

With an estimated 40,000 registered nursing vacancies in England and an overall decline in the number of applications to undergraduate nursing courses, experts are concerned about how this target will be met.

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The workforce remains a worry.

Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Mental Health Network, which is part of the NHS Confederation, said: “The ambitious vision of the NHS Long Term Plan provides a further step change for mental health services, with more people able to access treatment and more specialised services.

“The Implementation Plan now gives us a clear route to living that vision. There is much to welcome, not least the roll-out of a Patient and Carer Race Equality Framework and clarity on opportunities for voluntary, community and social enterprises to lead in the delivery and implementation of services.

“However, the timescales are tight for planning in the first year and we must be careful, too, about being too prescriptive. Ultimately, we believe the best approach is to empower local leaders to use their knowledge to drive these improvements and do what works best in their areas.

Workforce remains a worry – it is good news that local areas will be more involved in developing their workforce but, with mental health services suffering from particularly high vacancy rates, we will need to see support from the centre.

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“And we must acknowledge that mental health services cannot succeed in a vacuum. Mental health services must work in partnership with other parts of the system, with mental health being threaded throughout STP and ICS plans.

“Importantly, investment is needed in the wider health and care system – including in social care, capital, public health and supported housing – if the vision of the Long Term Plan is to be achieved.”

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