Date Published: 21 April 2006

New roles for mental health nurses in the UK National Health Service (NHS)

Health News from the United Kingdom (UK).

Major review recommends new way forward for key mental health professionals

A major review of mental health nursing was published yesterday by Health Minister Rosie Winterton and Chief Nursing Officer Christine Beasley. The review recommends key actions needed for nurses to be able to improve the care of people with mental health problems, for example by providing more psychological therapies and by promoting physical wellbeing.

The review, "From Values to Action", is the result of a major consultation exercise launched last year in the context of government reforms such as "Choosing Health", "Delivering Race Equality" and the draft Mental Health Bill. As the largest professional group in mental health services, mental health nurses play a vital role in delivering these reforms and it is important that their career structure reflects that.

Some key recommendations of the review were:

  • Mental health Nurses (MHNs) should focus on the wider needs of the patient, using their skills to improve physical well-being through better assessment and health promotion activities, and by providing more psychological therapies
  • Inpatient care should be improved by increasing the time MHNs spend in direct clinical contact with service users and minimising the time they spend on administrative roles
  • Career structures for MHNs should be reviewed according to local needs and a range of new nursing roles developed and supported
  • MHNs should promote social inclusion for service users and their carers
  • The recruitment and retention of MHNs needs to be improved through initiatives such as linking with schools and colleges and presenting positive messages about mental health to the media.

Rosie Winterton said:

" Mental health nurses have always been a vital part of effective mental health services and in recent years they have played an absolutely key part in the ongoing transformation of mental health services.

_ The time is right to build on these improvements and to provide mental health nurses with a new direction and clear future role in order to deliver government reforms such as the Mental Health Bill, personalised care and choice.

_ As mental health nursing improves, service users will see the benefits."

Christine Beasley said:

" I am delighted that mental health nurses are leading the way in working with users and carers in developing a system fit for the twenty-first century. This report aims to help mental health nurses, their organisations and professional leaders put in place the practical changes that will make a difference to service users. I want this review to be used on the ground to shape everyday practice wherever care is given to mental health service users and their families.

_ I would like to thank all those who contributed to this work and particularly the service users and carers who gave up their valuable time to tell us their stories, share their ideas and remind us what we are all here for."

National director for mental health Professor Louis Appleby said:

" Mental health nursing is at the heart of modern healthcare. Through the development of new roles, such as prescribing, and new skills in areas such as physical wellbeing, mental health nurses are at the forefront of changes in how services provide for the needs of people with mental health problems. All mental health professionals are having to rethink the part they will play in the services of the future. This report sets out an optimistic and ambitious vision of a confident and responsive nursing profession."

A wide range of professional and other organisations support the review and its recommendations.

The Mental Health Nurses' Association, Royal College of Nursing and UNISON said :

" Service users consulted have been clear about what they value and what they want from us. We now face the challenge of meeting those expectations."

Source(s): UK Dept. Health

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