Unite is calling on the government to reverse the cuts to mental health nursing as the Care Quality Commission (CQC) report, published (July 20), finds that 25 per cent of core mental health services need to improve.
Starting in 2014, the inspection programme of 54 NHS mental health trusts in England and 221 independent mental health services, rated the majority of services as good or outstanding for having caring and compassionate staff, but identified serious areas of concern, including the dramatic 12 per cent fall in mental health nurses since 2010.
Unite, which embraces the Mental Health Nurses Association (MHNA) has warned that increased caseloads and staff shortages are leaving nurses at risk of burn-out, with them stretched too thin to provide the one to one care needed to avoid detentions under the Mental Health Act, which rose by 26 per cent from 2012/13 to 2015/16.
“It is deeply worrying that the growing demand for mental health services has been accompanied by a sharp fall in the number of NHS mental health nurses,” commented Unite professional officer Dave Munday.
“If the government is serious about improving mental health services it needs to urgently reverse the cuts to mental health nursing and start investing in their development.
“It is deeply ironic that both Theresa May and her predecessor David Cameron, have expressed strong support for mental health services, which provide vital help to thousands in distress every day, but the necessary funding is not in place.
“However,” Munday added, “it is a testament to the dedication and professionalism of the country’s mental health nurses that nearly all services have been rated as good or outstanding for having caring and compassionate staff, despite the very serious pressures they face.
‘Holding the service together’
“Nurses in both the NHS and independent sector are very clearly holding the service together, without their dedication there is a very serious chance that things will collapse, but many are now at risk of burning out. Their situation has been made worse by the government’s seven years of public sector pay restraint which has led to real terms wages cuts of around 17 per cent for the majority of NHS staff since 2010.
“Unite is also urging the government to remove the public sector pay cap or risk even more nurses leaving the service and is calling on it to enact safer staffing legislation.”
Unite believes that the fall in mental health nurses is closer to 19.5 per cent since 2010 when you take into account the increase in population over this period, which equates to one mental health nurse per 1,549 people.