Response to 'The future of the mental health workforce' report

 Ed Freshwater 20 Sep 2017 Mental Health Forum

The Centre for Mental Health was commissioned by the NHS Confederation to explore future mental health workforce needs. The RCN Mental Health Forum welcomes the recognition that mental health nurses have important skills and that the profession has experienced significant upheaval in recent years.

There are 22 recommendations offered in the report for health leaders, which are much appreciated at a time when low morale, high absence and rapid staff turnover threaten nurses and service users alike. Our members are not disposable commodities; they are trusted professionals best placed to provide therapeutic interventions for those experiencing mental illness.

Mentoring and supervision are key elements in supporting the nursing workforce, but are often the first casualty of staff shortages and clinical crises. We have seen nursing numbers decimated since 2009, with a detrimental effect on caseloads and care. For our members it is concerning that, rather than address issues of supervision and therapeutic levels of staffing, the Department of Health has chosen to tinker with new roles, untested training routes, disruptive reorganisation, and bed decreases. Nurses are being expected to do more with less in an unsustainable cycle of cuts.

There is a desire to develop skills and careers, and calls for a radical redesign of services. The recognition that communities, families, housing, and employment have a role in safeguarding mental health is a welcome shift from a biomedical tradition. The value of the therapeutic relationship between nurses and service users has long been overlooked. Collaboration using the expertise of those with lived experience (including professionals) is key to this process. New models of care should, at the very least, include nurses at the design, planning, implementation and evaluation stages. Nurses deserve to be at the forefront of meeting future demand.

The RCN Mental Health Forum and its newly-appointed professional leads look forward to working with all stakeholders in delivering positive change. However, such change requires time, support, funding, long-term views and a motivated workforce to achieve. If services continue to lurch from one crisis to another, this vision will remain a distant utopia.


The report can be viewed here.

RCN members can join the Mental Health Forum here.

Ed Freshwater

Ed Freshwater

RCN Mental Health Forum Chair

Mental Health Nurse

Ed started working in mental health as an HCA in 2009, before starting his nursing degree. He has written a regular column for the British Journal of Nursing and is passionate about protecting and empowering those most marginalised by mental illness, and championing the role of the mental health nurse.

Page last updated - 18/03/2020