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Mental Health

Nursing experts warn the health service is failing autistic children

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Over a third of learning disability nurse posts have been cut since 2010 and fewer are in training than ever before.

Experts at the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) Children and Young People’s Nursing Conference have warned that government cuts to learning disability nurse posts mean an increasing number of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are unable to access the support they need.

Parents too are often given little help after their child’s diagnosis and are forced to cope without the support they need, from counselling and family support groups to specialist education.

According to the RCN experts have also warned that hospital staff often have difficulty communicating with children with autism and need more training in this area.

National figures show that around 1 in every 100 children in the UK has ASD, a condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.

Fiona Smith, RCN Professional Lead for Children and Young People, said: “Children with autism are being severely let down by the sheer lack of support that is available to them.

“Nursing staff across health services have a huge role to play in helping children with autism and their families. However, we need the staff and the training in order to provide the care that is so vitally needed.”

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Mental Health

NHS to recruit 21,000 Mental Health workers in England

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The health secretary has said thousands more mental health workers are to be recruited by the NHS in England.

The £1.3 billion pound drive is promised to increase the number of nurses, therapists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals to treat an extra one million people and provide services seven days a week.

Jeremy Hunt has promised to end the “historic imbalance” between mental and physical health services. He went on to say that the measures were “ambitious” and amounted to “one of the biggest expansions of mental health services in Europe”.

The aim is to recruit enough nurses and support staff to treat an extra one million patients by 2020-21 but with over 30,000 current NHS vacancies unions are critical as to where these staff will come from.

Professor Wendy Burn, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, who helped develop the plan, said; “You would expect to see a consultant if you had cancer and the same applies for mental health. The biggest challenge to creating robust mental health services is the workforce. I am very supportive of this strategy which starts to tackle that problem.”

However, the Royal College of Nursing said the plans did not add up, and more “hard cash” would be needed if the new staff were to be trained in time.

“If these nurses were going to be ready in time, they would be starting training next month,” said RCN Chief Executive Janet Davies.

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Mental Health

A Prescription for Murder? The BBC Documentary that further reinforces Mental Health Stereotypes

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Experts have heavily criticised the BBC Panorama documentary ‘A Prescription for Murder?’.

The controversial BBC documentary questioned if selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) antidepressants played a part or even contributed to the murder of James Holmes.

With more than 40 million prescriptions issued in the UK each year for antidepressants, a significant number of these are for SSRIs.

Experts are warning that although openly speaking about mental health is good, reinforcing a stigma that has no evidence or basis-in-fact is a step in the wrong direction and only further reinforces mental health stereotypes.

You can watch ‘BBC Panorama: A Prescription for Murder‘ on BBC iPlayer. 

Professor Wendy Burn, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, wrote in the International Business Times that; “Last night’s Panorama programme A Prescription for Murderset back the journalism of mental health by decades”.

She goes on to explain that considerable research has been done and, currently, there is no evidence to suggest an even a casual link between antidepressants and murder. Instead, there is clear evidence that antidepressants are an effective treatment for an “extremely serious illness”.

Finally, she adds “Making a link between the two only increases stigma – which we know exacerbates someone’s mental”. You can read her full article here.

Prof Carmine Pariante, Professor of Biological Psychiatry, King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, said: “There is no good evidence that antidepressants increase the risk of violent behaviour, and the extremely rare (and tragic) cases that are cited in support of this theory could be explained by chance”.

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