In train? Progress on mental health nurse education

Despite steps towards closing the gap between mental and physical health services, many people still cannot access services and face long waits for treatment. Addressing workforce challenges in mental health services will be crucial to improving this situation. This report, commissioned and supported by NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network, takes stock of progress across the country in staffing the single largest profession within the mental health workforce: nurses.

In October 2020 the Nuffield Trust report Laying foundations: Attitudes and access to mental health nurse education concluded that while mental health nursing can undoubtedly offer the opportunity for a rewarding career, there were significant issues within the profession that needed to be addressed. The NHS Confederation's Mental Health Network, who along with NHS Employers commissioned and supported the 2020 report, approached Nuffield Trust to provide an update on progress in this area.

Nurses are fundamental to the provision of mental health services across the vast array of settings that they are delivered. As this latest report shows, while it is welcome that the number of mental health nurses has increased, more needs to be done: the increase in mental health nursing has lagged far behind that seen in adult and children’s nursing, and mental health trusts account for nearly a third of all nursing vacancies.

We also identified significant regional differences, including numbers of nurses relative to the size and mental health needs of the population, a two-fold difference in organisational leaver rates, and apparent variation in the opportunities for pay progression.

Read the report


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