22 November 2018
Fiona Smith, RCN Professional Lead for Children and Young People, said:
“We can all agree the mental health of our children and young people should be a national priority and this comprehensive survey shows the real extent of the issue.
“The rate of children and young people experiencing mental health problems shows no signs of reversing. Health visitors, school nurses and mental health nurses play a crucial role in promoting emotional health and wellbeing and caring for children and young people with a mental health needs. They also provide essential support for families and teachers and can intervene early enough to stop children needing specialist help, and therefore should be central to the Government’s focus on prevention.
“However, despite their proven experience and effectiveness, registered nurses are being replaced by ‘mental health practitioners’, who do not have the same level of education and experience as registered nurses. A much better method of tackling this escalating problem would be to reverse the damaging public health budget cuts which prevent local authorities retaining the vital number of school nurses and health visitors. The upcoming NHS long term plan for England also provides an opportunity to address service fragmentation, and the barriers to children accessing care.
“Nursing is in the midst of a workforce crisis, and roles critical to the delivery of children and young people’s mental health services have been particularly hard-hit by reductions across learning disabilities and mental health nursing. Without proper workforce planning, the situation for children and young people will only worsen. The RCN is calling for legislation in England to ensure that there is accountability in national workforce supply and planning, so that the health and care system can meet the needs of patients.”