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Breaking down barriers in nursing

Tagged In:  Mental Health, Nursing

Should nurses spend more time on general training before specialising? Would a single registration system help address the imbalance between physical and mental health? 

These are just two of the burning issues for health planners and senior managers tasked with ensuring we have a nursing workforce that can deliver the new integrated models of care envisioned in the NHS Five Year Forward View.

Last year, a major review of nurse education recommended a new model in which students spend more time on general training (both physical and mental health) before specialising. This theme was developed by Claire Johnston, Camden and Islington NHS Trust's Director Nursing and People, speaking at the recent Nursing Times Deputies' Congress. She argued that having nurses who are well equipped to manage patients that have both mental and physical health problems, along with a single registration system, would help put mental health on the same footing as physical health. 

As specialists in locum nurse recruitment, we're aware that this issue could be particularly relevant to our future client base. Flexibility is one of the key benefits which locum employment can offer – for both employees and employers. Therefore, having less of a formal dividing line between physical health nursing and mental health nursing could be a positive move. Many of our candidates will no doubt welcome the opportunity to develop their careers in new directions. As for employers, having a more versatile and integrated nursing workforce will help them make the most of the skills and expertise available to them.

The King's Fund says that physical health problems significantly increase the risk of poor mental health and vice versa: "Around 30% of all people with a long-term physical health condition also have a mental health problem. And mental health problems can seriously exacerbate physical illness, affecting outcomes and the cost of treatment. The effect of poor mental health on physical illnesses is estimated to cost the NHS at least £8 billion a year."

"We each love our own fields of practice, that is why we chose them, and there is no doubt that our diverse population requires us to offer specialist care, " wrote student mental health nurse Helen Croft in a recent article for Nursing Times. " But... wouldn’t it be better if we all had core and transferable generalist skills too? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to achieve the true meaning of holistic care?"

This certainly seems to fit in with the Five Year Forward View vision. One of its central commitments is to "take decisive steps to break down the barriers in how care is provided between family doctors and hospitals, between physical and mental health, between health and social care". It also talks about having "the most appropriate employment arrangements to enable our current staff to work across organisation and sector boundaries", as well as "ensuring we have a more flexible workforce that can provide high quality care wherever and whenever the patient needs it". 

We'll be closely following any further progress towards a new nursing education and registration model and will keep you up-to-date on developments.

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