Nurse Shortage Hits Mental Care

Mental health patients’ care is being threatened by nursing staff shortages, nurses say. A poll of 600 mental health nurses by the Royal College of Nursing found nearly half thought low staffing compromised care once a week.

They also complained they did too much paperwork and 43% said they did not have time to give patients specialist care, such as psychological therapy.

Mental health experts said low staffing levels were unacceptable.

Two-thirds thought there were currently not enough members of staff to meet patient needs and 42% complained that low staffing levels compromised care once a week.

The survey also showed more than half of nurses believed they had to spend too much time on paperwork.

Norman Young, a nurse consultant in Cardiff, is involved in caring for mental health care patients and also helps train nurses and develop patient care plans.

He said as a result of increased paperwork in recent years, many nurses were feeling frustrated and needed more support.

And some are having to prioritise patients – putting less urgent cases on waiting lists despite them still having high levels of needs.

Mr Cook said in some cases these delays could worsen patients’ conditions.

RCN general secretary Dr Peter Carter said: “This survey shows that mental health nurses are facing serious obstacles to delivering the kind of care that their clients deserve.

“Nurses shouldn’t be spending a third of their time on paperwork, this time would be much better spent with their clients.”

Sophie Corlett, policy director at mental health charity Mind, said: “The relationship between nurses and services users is the cornerstone of good mental health care, and too often this is jeopardised by low staffing levels, use of ever-changing agency staff, overwork, lack of training and limited time spent with patients.”

And Paul Corry, Rethink’s director of public affairs, said it was “unacceptable” that patient care was being compromised by NHS deficits.

He added: “It is particularly frustrating to learn that nurses are not able to deliver the kind of care they are trained for, particularly in providing psychological therapies.

“We know these kinds of talking therapies could make a huge difference to the lives of people with severe mental illness.”

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said the survey painted a “worrying picture” of mental health nurses hamstrung by inadequate staffing levels and excessive administrative duties.

She said: “In our experience, the lives of mentally ill people and their families can be transformed when they have regular contact with a skilled and compassionate nurse.

“However, callers to our helpline report bleak days on wards, with minimal contact with nurses and therapists and little to do.”