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NHS has lost 4,000 mental health nurses since May 2010, says RCN report

Investment in mental health and community nursing clearly needed, according to City expert

by George Wigmore (Senior Communications Officer)

A new report from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has found that the NHS has lost nearly 4,000 mental health nurses and 1,500 learning disability nurses since May 2010.

The RCN’s Frontline First: The fragile frontline report also finds that fewer nurses are working in the NHS since 2010 and that an already over-stretched workforce is being forced to carry out even more work, with serious implications for patient care and staff welfare.

The response to the Francis Inquiry has also resulted in a dramatic push to reverse the cuts to the nursing roles, particularly in acute hospitals, but this has been at the expense of community posts which help prevent admission to hospitals and A&E.

The report shows that the community nursing workforce has shrunk significantly in the past five years, with the general community nursing workforce down by over 3,300 nurses; 2,000 of whom are district nurses providing specialist care, an alarming 28 per cent decrease to an integral part of the community workforce.

As a result, according to the RCN, at the end of this Coalition Government’s term the NHS is in a critical financial position and battling a nursing shortage. This includes the NHS facing a nursing agency bill of nearly £1bn in 2014-15 and many Trusts struggling to recruit nurses.

Commenting on the announcement, Alan Simpson, Professor of Collaborative Mental Health Nursing at City University London, said:

“Any incoming Government is going to have to take notice of the results of this alarming RCN report on the nursing workforce. It is good to see more nurses working in the acute care sector following the Francis Inquiry but clearly there needs to an investment in community nursing and especially in nurses working with people with mental health problems and learning difficulties. Supporting people in their homes and local communities reduces costly hospital admissions and attendance at overloaded A&E departments.

“Spending vast resources on agency staff - nearly £1bn in 2014-15 – is ludicrous when we are turning away people that are keen to train as nurses. The current rise in commissioning of nurse education must continue to increase, as we need more nurses with the modern skills and values at the heart of the new ways of working in healthcare.”

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