Royal College of Nursing Representing nurses and nursing, promoting excellence in practice, shaping health policies

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Our work


This end of year report of the Mental Health Forum demonstrates the variety of projects and workstreams that the team has engaged in over the past year. Our work this year shows how we are an environment for forum members to network, share ideas, inform and influence practice, research and education, while lobbing and developing national policy and legislation.

This year the team has worked collaboratively on consultations such as Mental Health Act Reforms (England and Wales) of which a key outcome was a recently published via an article expanding on the RCN’s response the MHA reforms consultation, re racial inequalities. We hosted a highly attended and successful event “an audience with David Harewood” that facilitated the formal launch of the Forum’s Ethnic Minority Subgroup.

Several other projects and consultations have shaped the development of mental health nursing and nursing careers as we worked together with various organizations. Co-production is central to everything we do by producing resources for nurses’ professional development, as well as campaigning for better policy locally and nationally.


The forum has a total membership of 13,806; first choice 10,978 (as of November 2021). We are the largest and fasted growing forum in the RCN.

Committee membership

  • Chair: Ellie Gordon
  • Deputy Chair: Laura Daukintis
  • Becky Hoskins
  • Helen Rees
  • Dr Helena Ann Mitchell (Chair Ethnic Minority Subgroup)
  • Rebecca Betts-Richard

We had one vacancy arose due to a member leaving the forum during 2021. We had an increased number of applications to be members of the steering committee compared with previous years, of which 5 applicants were interviewed. Professor Ben Thomas was successful at interview and will be joining the committee in January 2022.

At the start of the year, we set out to advance, grow and develop the mental health forum and its members. We completely revisited and progressed the way in which the mental health forum works and engages with its diverse membership. This has included the founding of a number of subgroups, ensuring the most pertinent challenges facing the profession and our field of practice are highlighted (i.e. race inequalities; lived experiences of using mental health service).

We have undertaken multiple projects and pieces of work with other forums and external stakeholders.

To enhance member engagement, the mental health forum has created a quarterly newsletter. The first edition was published in Autumn and widely disseminated via bulk-email. The newsletter is a useful tool to raise awareness of the committee members’ interests and skills and to inform members about the exciting projects the team engages in and the outcomes.

How we work

We continue to build upon earlier forum work to develop a group of expert advisors who support the committee and the wider-RCN, providing expertise to key areas of mental health.

Expanding on this model of forum member engagement, we have added a UK Mental Health Nursing Oversight Group, focusing on high-level mental health nursing issues and developments through a four-country approach.

We have created a new lived-experience subgroup to ensure that we hear the voice of our members who themselves have lived experience of mental health care, and in this way ensure that the work of the forum is co-produced with lived-experience at its core.

We also developed an ethnic minority subgroup, to ensure that as a forum we can hear and learn from ethnic minority colleagues and ensure work is co-produced with this voice clearly heard. Both these groups will inform the RCN forum steering committee but will also initiate and lead on workstreams specific to their area (see agreed ways of working).

Agreed ways of working

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the delivery of healthcare continues to be challenging as we approach winter and is putting a significant strain on the NHS. Mental health nurses engage in the forum but raise other matters pertaining to their work practices.

Due to COVID we have moved all forum meetings online, and our events have been facilitated using an online platforms. This has led to an increase in the numbers of attendees at our various events, with the David Harwood event achieving the highest attendance numbers in 99 yrs of RCN libraries history.

What has worked well has been our ability to network and link in with groups and organisations external to the RCN, which has meant we have been able to influence and shape mental health nursing more widely than before. Our ability to do this has again been enhanced due to meetings being online rather than face to face.

What hasn’t worked well has been the need to cancel inequality event which could not be delivered in 2021 due to the pandemic and impact on the committee members’ workload.

Our work

The RCN cross-forum clinical supervision project has been completed. Core recommendations from the scoping literature review have been shared with the professional nursing committee and paper submitted to The journal of Advanced Nursing.

In addition, the RCN has agreed to produce a position statement on clinical supervision for members who are nurses, support workers, nursing associates and midwives. The professional lead for mental health is supporting the cross-forum and member-led development of this statement to be completed by January 2022.

A development from this project has been an aligned piece of work around clinical supervision, which involves key national stakeholders from Foundation of Nursing Studies, RCN fellows, HEE, NHS E/I amongst others. Collectively this group is referred to as the Clinical Supervision Expert Reference Group and is hosted by the Florence Nightingale Foundation.

Our lived-experience project is complete. Findings were presented by Catherine Gamble (RCN Fellow) at the international mental health nursing research conference (June, 2021) and the project report is being completed at present.

Whilst the lived-experience sub group is still in development, with a planned launch in the new year, the ethnic minority subgroup was officially launched on the 20th October 2021. Marking this milestone, in collaboration with the RCN library, an evening with David Harewood was open to all members UK wide which was well attended.

At this event the new Ethnic Minority Subgroup was launched where the chair of the group discussed the purpose of the subgroup to bring about change in the delivery of mental health care within diverse cultural groups and to encourage more equality in terms of promotion and training within the mental health settings for minority staff.

RCN Congress was held online again this year due to COVID 19 restrictions. A plethora of practice related topics and education including the RCN’s Education, Learning and Development strategy were presented that sparked off interesting debates and conversations.

The mental health forum collaborated with the RCN Learning Disability Forum on the topic of autism. The presentation at Congress concentrated on the void in the current system provision for those with autism and would like to see more autism training embedded within pre and post registration education for nurses. Further collaboration is planned with the RCN Learning Disability Forum to develop this area of joint work.

On the 25th November we co-hosted an event celebrating the support workforce in mental health. This was co-produced in collaboration with the nursing support workers committee and RCN libraries and archives team.

As in previous years we hosted on twitter World Mental Health Day on 10th October 2021 to raise awareness of mental health issues. The forum committee continues to utilise social media platforms, and all other platforms available to engage the wider forum members.

We continue to use twitter to engage with members and non-members alike about issues which relate to Mental Health Nursing. We now have almost 3000 followers on Twitter and regularly utilise the forum to obtain feedback re key issues relating to Mental Health.

It is important to note that all RCN Facebook sites will be closed soon, and Hivebrite will become the main tool to communicate with forum members. The MH forum was one of the pilot forums that volunteered to try Hivebrite. We are now well placed to migrate information onto these pages and move towards using his as our core form of member engagement. We anticipate that we will cease use of our Facebook page and migrate to this site early in the new year.

David Harewood was in conversation with Mental Health Nurse Simon Arday and Peer involvement Worker Kojo Bonsu, exploring what it means to be a person of colour navigating the mental health system.

Members of the mental health forum committee were full involved in this public event David gave an emotional account of his lived experience of psychosis including the concerns about the quality of poor care received.

Drawing on expertise from Black health care professionals and those with lived experience, this event highlighted what needs to be done to impact change in the mental health care system.

We exceeded six hundred attendees, which is the largest library event in its 99-year history. This was a statement for equality and diversity, as well as for mental health care and mental health nursing .

The chair of the newly formed Ethnic Minority sub-group, elected in August 2021, has contributed to the RCN mental health review in terms of the need to improve the discriminatory practices that are metered out to Black men when sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Our member’s plea is made to provide culturally sensitive and tailored care that is vital when caring for individuals from diverse backgrounds with a range of traditions, language faiths, cultural norms around mental wellness and ill health that differ from the majority perception.

Collaborations/projects with stakeholders

The One Voice statement continues to be referenced and profiled since its publication in June. The RCN continues to provide trauma informed support to members via our counselling services, in direct response to the changing needs of our members.

The RCN held a ‘Wellbeing of the Nursing Workforce Event’ on the 16th June – sharing large research studies and best practice. Showcased studies include: NHS CHECK, ICON and TIDES.

The Professional Lead has presented and discussed issues of ‘moral distress’ at several conferences and workshops. Most notably at the #EndPJparalysis Global Summit, 6th August 2021; reshown at RCN Congress 2021.

More collaborative work took place with the public health forum who informed members of a published article to help nurses access occupational health services to support their mental wellbeing at work that was a collaboration.

Via the professional lead for mental health, the RCN has representation on the new ‘Wellbeing of the workforce expert reference group’ (NHSE/I), as well as the UK-wide ‘One Voice Group’ of joint professional bodies for the mental wellbeing of health and care staff. These engagements ensures that the voice of our members influences at the highest level.

All England Review of Mental health Nursing Workforce, this group is chaired by Baroness Watkins of Tavistock and will outline a future vision for the mental health nursing workforce in England. The RCN is supporting this work by leading on one of the three task and finish groups, severe mental illness.

The RCN MH forum and Learning Disability Nursing forum are hosting a CPD event focused on role of consultant nurse as an Approved Clinician; sponsored by and co-developed with HEE.

An aligned event will highlight the role of nurses as Approved Mental Health Practitioners (AMHP), an advanced-level senior clinical role which provides a positive career opportunity for both MH and LD nurses; this again is being co-developed with HEE.

A collaborative event with the nursing support worker committee for nurses’ support workers’ day was held on the 23rd November 2021 which was well attended, and chaired by MH forum Chair Ellie Gordon. The speakers at this event presented inspirational examples of care delivered to patients. A service user also attended this event who gave a powerful account of his experiences as a patient in the mental health services.

The forum committee continues to lobby for development and advancement of mental health nursing and nursing careers. Mental health nurses in primary care are one core area members are keen to advance, as well as career and development opportunities through nurse academia (education/research).

Due to the challenges facing nurses across the acute hospital setting (physical health), a joint forum and cross-field expert RCN reference group has been created, working together to find solutions. We are working jointly with the CYP Acute Care forum, Learning Disabilities Nursing forum and leaders from other professional Royal Colleges. We continue to have RCN representation at multiple national CYPMH platforms, including the joint Royal Colleges group.

We are involved with the significant pieces of work which are currently underway in England, whilst also ensuring that we bring a four nations lens to this work, to address the significant issues currently facing CYPMH. This includes membership of the CYPMH taskforce which is led by NHS E/I, as well as sub group work focused on meeting the needs of CYP with MH in acute settings.

An article has been produced in collaboration with Mind (pending), highlighting the importance of offering choice to how young people access mental health support and care – research suggests remote is generally not the preferred method.

The RCN has jointly created a Doctoral thesis repository with MHNAUK – launched on Wednesday the 9th June at the MHNR conference to celebrate the achievements of nurse academics. The repository was voted by conference attendees to be named after Annie Altschul.

Colleagues of the MHNAUK highlighted the impending crisis facing nurses in education. The RCN held a meeting with a group of members and non-members in August to discuss these issues facing nurse education that also experienced by other fields of nursing, beyond mental health. The cross-field group met on the 14th October to discuss actions and the next steps.

Contribution to consultations/ policy development

The forum submitted the response to the MHA Reform consultation regarding Mental Health Act (MHA) Reforms (England and Wales) earlier in the year.

This submission was reference in the government’s response and has then led to increasingly positive working relationships with the DHSC; including a request from them for greater involvement for the RCN into the mental health reform work.

To date this has translated into joint workshops with DHSC and the RCN, as well as some 1-1 sessions where feedback and input from nurses have been sought. Furthermore the RCN has been invited to be key stakeholders in the implementation process, including developing the new Code of Practice.

A recent article ‘Mental health reforms must address racial disparities in our services’ was published expanding the RCN’s response on inequalities in the MHA reforms consultation.

Find out more about our work around the Mental Health Act reform.

Consultation workshops took place throughout May and June for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland . There was very little mental health nurse engagement.

The RCN has therefore asked that the Professional lead represent members at the NMC post-registration standards – consultation assimilation; finalizing the standards based on all available consultation evidence. A planning meeting was attended on the 3rd November.

In June the team provided evidence/expertise to MPs and Peers around nations MH through and beyond COVID-19. The report, Mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on adults, was published by The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology in July 2021.

Plans for 2022

  • Planned presentations for members on the topic of managing their mental health through and beyond the pandemic.
  • Panel Discussion - developing resilience and mental wellbeing amongst ethnic minority groups, collaboration with the Open University – 28th February 2022.
  • Approved Clinician conference - 24th February 2022.
  • Awaiting a date and conformation of Approved Mental Health Practitioner event
  • Lived-experience sub group to be formally launched – January 2022.
  • Ethnic minority subgroup plan to host two bi-annual events through the library team during Black history month and another in the summer.
  • World Mental Health and Psychiatric Nursing Day - international conference to be held to showcase the profession of mental health nursing in the UK and beyond.
  • Supporting a new networking website for mental health nurses that will showcase individual personal stories.
  • New mental health nursing research and clinical academia page to be added to our site (collaboration with MHNAUK).

  • We intend to build on the foundations initiated in 2021; we will continue to develop our subgroups, integrating their work into the steering committee.
  • We will increase transparency of the work the committee does by inviting forum members to attend committee meetings, and subgroup meetings.
  • We will continue to engage and link with external stake holders across all 4 countries and will expand and develop out international relationships as well.

Page last updated - 11/01/2022