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Mental health services 'under strain'

Mental health services 'under strain'
24th November 2014

Although demand for mental health services is on the rise, there are fewer nurses and beds than there were four years ago, reports the BBC.

According to the Royal College of Nursing, there are now 3,300 fewer posts in mental health nursing and 1,500 fewer beds than there were in 2010. However, the need for mental health services has increased by 30 per cent. 

The RCN says that mental health nursing posts have declined by eight per cent in England over the last four years, while the reduction in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland was one per cent. This is in contrast to the total number of nursing posts in the UK, which has been increased in all parts of the UK.

Nurses who work in mental healthcare settings must go through specialised training, which prepares them for working with patients who have a wide range of conditions - such as dementia or schizophrenia - and needs.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said that mental health was a 'priority' for the government and pointed to the announcement last month that an additional £120 million would be used to improve care and introduce waiting time standards. 

However, a mental health charity told the BBC that funding cuts were problematic for the quality of care patients received and could leave them needing long-term support.

The chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, Dr Peter Carter, warned that cuts to mental health services could have serious implications. "We are running the serious risk of turning back the clock and undoing all the good work that has gone before," he explained.

"Money is tight in the NHS but if we are serious about treating mental illness in the same way as physical illness, then people must be offered what they need before reaching crisis point," he added.

The RCN says that government and healthcare providers need to ensure that they have enough staff, with the right level of training, in order to deliver suitable care in the community. A long-term strategy is also needed to recruit and train more mental health nurses, since almost one-third of the existing nurses are aged over 50.

Read about support and personalised care at Barchester care homes for anyone with mental health concerns.