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Eileen Skellern Lecture: The future of mental health nursing

Professor Alan Simpson delivers prestigious annual lecture at City.
by Ben Sawtell

Academics, practitioners and students gathered at City University London last week to hear Professor Alan Simpson, from City's School of Health Sciences, deliver the Eileen Skellern Lecture, one of the most important annual events in the mental health nursing calendar.

In an entertaining speech, Professor Simpson provided an overview of his somewhat unusual career, which has included jobs selling TVs, vacuum cleaners and working in a leather tannery, before embarking on his long and distinguished career in mental health nursing

Professor Simpson's research has focussed on improving patient care and especially on the development of peer support networks. These networks pair patients, or service users, with others who have been through a similar process and can therefore share experiences and provide support and advice.

Despite their positive impact there have been concerns raised in some parts of the profession that peer support workers could pose a threat to mental health nursing especially in light of the government's austerity policy; something that Professor Simpson refutes: "The unique expertise that these peer supporter workers can offer service users is increasingly valued as an important dimension in aiding recovery.

"Mental Health Nurses should have the professional confidence to welcome this innovation and work in collaboration with peer workers to improve the care provided to people in mental distress."

In her introduction Karina Lovell, Professor of Mental Health Nursing at Manchester University, described Professor Simpson as, "one of the most influential figures in mental health nursing in the UK," and praised him as a, "collegiate, passionate and inspiring individual."

Each year at the event the Journal of Psychiatric & Mental Health Nursing's lifetime achievement award is presented to someone who has made a significant contribution to the field of mental health nursing. This year the award was given to Malcolm Rae OBE, former Chair of the Royal College of Nursing's Mental Health Society.

Nominations for both the award of the lecture and JPMNH prize are received from colleagues and a short list is presented to a panel made up of previous lecturers, award recipients and representatives of the sponsor organisations.

Eileen Skellern was one of the great innovators in mental health nursing and made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of this field. She played a leading role in developing the knowledge, skills and professional contribution of nurses.

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