Educating nurses

The Nursing and Midwifery Council is consulting on its programme of change for education. Information can be found here, and there’s a lot of it. Mental Health Nurse Academics UK (MHNAUK) will be submitting a response, with Anne Felton from Nottingham University (who leads MHNAUK’s Education Standing Group) coordinating this work.

On July 11th, with mental health nurse academic colleagues in the School of Healthcare Sciences in Cardiff I spent part of our annual summer away day formulating a team response to the NMC’s proposals. Once we’re happy with the content we’ll be forwarding it to Anne, and simultaneously submitting directly to the NMC.

Individually and collectively, other mental health nurses will be formulating responses too. For now, the NMC confirms that the four nursing fields (mental health, adult, child and learning disability) will remain. For an explanation of the importance of preserving mental health nursing as a pre-registration speciality, follow this link for MHNAUK’s relevant position paper. But, as MHNAUK Chair Steven Pryjmachuk pointed out last month in this piece (£) for the Nursing Times, the list of nursing procedures contained in the NMC’s draft standards of proficiency is heavily skewed towards the adult field. This is the Cardiff University mental health team’s concern too, and we’ll be saying so (with specific examples) in our response. Another place for this (and any other) view to be given is at this forthcoming WeMHNurses chat:

Meanwhile, last week ended with two days of professional doctorate teaching. With Nicola Evans I lead a module which addresses working in, and examining, complex systems of health and social care. We’ve run this module before, and as always the student group was a lively and engaged one. Amongst the things we discussed together are the connections running within and between systems of different scale, and the sometimes unforeseen consequences of introducing change. These are matters about which both Nic and I have written (see here, here, here and here). 

To link the two parts of this post together: the NMC is a big player, and for better or worse its programme of education reform will trigger significant disruption. A systems thinking perspective encourages us to consider the possible impact of the NMC’s proposals alongside other sources of change. These include the introduction of fees for student nurses in England, the arrival of nursing associates and reductions in the size of the UK’s registered nurse workforce. As cumulative shifts take place I’m hoping mental health nursing as a distinct profession emerges intact, with its current and future practitioners able to fulfil their places in a system which continues to very much need them. 

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Nurses needed

Yesterday the Nursing and Midwifery Council issued a press release reporting on a continued decline in the number of EU-qualified nurses and midwives joining the register, and a simultaneous increase in the number of EU-qualified nurses and midwives leaving. Behind the press release is a longer report, from which I have extracted two tables:

EU trained nurses and midwives joining the NMC register for the first time. Extracted from: https://www.nmc.org.uk/globalassets/sitedocuments/special-reports/nmc-eu-report-june-2017.pdf

EU trained nurses and midwives leaving the NMC register. Extracted from: https://www.nmc.org.uk/globalassets/sitedocuments/special-reports/nmc-eu-report-june-2017.pdf

 Judged on these figures the number of EU nurses coming to the UK looks to have slowed to a trickle. Elsewhere, in its report In short supply: pay policy and nurse numbers The Health Foundation points out that in 2015 NHS England had 22,000 too few nurses specialising in the care of adult patients. The mental health field, The Health Foundation adds, is one where (for the present) tools to calculate safe staffing are virtually non-existent.

Meanwhile, UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) reports that applications for higher education programmes commencing in the 2017-18 academic year have declined across the board, but that it is nursing courses which have seen the sharpest fall. Applicants from England making at least one choice to study nursing dropped by 23% (to 33,810) in 2017.

The RCN, amongst others, has long been campaigning against persistent low pay for NHS nurses, arguing that a career which is so obviously poorly remunerated is no incentive to potential new recruits. Nor, for that matter, does it help efforts to retain existing staff. Previous reports from the RCN tell us that the UK’s nursing workforce is an ageing one

Taken together, the loss of European nurses in the context of last year’s EU referendum, chronically poor workforce planning, a nursing profession which is getting older (and will therefore lose members to retirement), the loss of bursaries in England and continued low pay make for a toxic combination. But things can be done. Agreeing the future security of EU citizens in the UK would be a start, along with removing the NHS pay cap. Reintroducing bursaries might help rekindle UCAS applications. Better planning of future NHS staffing needs is long overdue. Nursing, of course, remains a mightily fulfilling career and I would hate to think that this (admittedly rather negative) post puts off anyone contemplating a move in this direction. But it also serves to highlight some of the serious challenges which lie ahead.

 
 

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Skellern Award and MHNAUK meet-up

My general election postal vote cast, June 8th began with a PhD examination at City University London moving as the day progressed to London South Bank University for this year’s Eileen Skellern Lecture and Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing Lifetime Achievement Award.

As Skellern Lecturer Mary Chambers gave a fine, interactive, presentation emphasising the importance of making visible the invisible work of mental health nurses. Here’s Mary with Ben Thomas and Isaac Marks, no less. Amongst other things Mary talked about her work developing the Therapeutic Engagement Questionnaire, a tool designed to establish the value of mental health nursing.

Len Bowers was recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. He gave a deeply personal, altogether humorous, account of his career in mental health nursing, highlighting in particular the curious accidents which helped propel him to the forefront of the profession. Len’s Safewards programme, of course, was no accident and his contribution to improving mental health nursing practice through research of this type continues to be sorely missed in the months following his retirement. Here he is receiving his award from Alan Simpson.

Friday was a meeting of Mental Health Nurse Academics UK, hosted by Sally Hardy at London South Bank University. Detailed notes from the meeting will appear in due course on the group’s website. In the morning Katie Evans from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute talked about the associations between mental health problems and money difficulties, making the point that debt advice (which is a regulated activity) needs to be incorporated into care pathways where necessary.

MHNAUK is in the process of setting up permanent standing groups, covering the areas of: research; education; policy and practice; and communication. Each group now has a lead person, and each group has plenty to do. The education group, led by Anne Felton, will be coordinating MHNAUK’s response to the NMC’s consultation on proposed new standards for pre-registration nurses. At this last week’s meeting, under the education group agenda item, members heard about plans for this autumn’s #FutureMHN conference. The research group, led by Mary Chambers, will be coordinating MHNAUK’s work in the context of the future Research Excellence Framework. On Friday, as part of the research group update I gave a progress review for this year’s #MHNR2017 conference. The policy and practice group is led by John Baker, and members (John included) have been working on (amongst other things) safe staffing. The final group is communications, led by Steven Pryjmachuk and me.

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#WhyWeDoResearch

This afternoon, seeking a break from a concentrated effort working with COCAPP data with the aim of saying something useful about how and why care coordinators coordinate care, I drifted into a Health and Care Research Wales chat on public involvement in research. One of the hashtags being used for this discussion was #WhyWeDoResearch. This initiative now has its own website, which can be found here. In the context of health care, the #WhyWeDoResearch campaign exists:

to raise research awareness and opportunities to staff, patients and the public, and to start a conversation about research between all involved. 

A cause worth supporting. And, to nudge the effort along, here is a short video launched today by Health and Care Research Wales explaining what research is:

 

 

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Mental health awareness week

Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 has the theme of ‘surviving or thriving’, this also being the title of a new report from the Mental Health Foundation. Included in this document is a summary of research completed by NatCen, on behalf of the Mental Health Foundation, into the prevalence of mental health problems across the population and into the activities that people do to manage these.

Here’s a snip from the report, summarising the self-reported difficulties experienced by the 2,290 people who took part:

MHF thriving

Extracted from Surviving or thriving

Using their NatCen data the Mental Health Foundation goes on to highlight major health inequalities. Almost three quarters of those on the lowest household income report experience of mental health difficulties, compared to six in ten of the wealthiest. A large majority of unemployed people responding reported experience of mental health problems, with women and younger people also particularly affected.

These findings are broadly in line with those reported in the most recent Mental Health and Wellbeing in England Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, the data for which was collected in 2014. This is the latest in a series of studies dating back to 1993, involving (in the 2014 iteration) a sample of some 7,500 people. In the case of Surviving or thriving, the new (to me, at any rate) detail is the reporting of what actions people take to help themselves with their difficulties. Here’s another snip:

Surviving 2

Extracted from Surviving or thriving

Family and friends, outdoor physical activity and hobbies look to be the three most-used strategies. I can’t say I’m surprised by this, and am reminded of the value placed in relationships with others by people taking part in COCAPP.

Elsewhere during Mental Health Awareness Week, The Guardian has published a number of pieces including this one on the shortage of mental health nurses and this one on Hafal‘s Gellinudd Recovery Centre (about which I previously blogged here). Coincidentally, this is also the month that the full and final report from COCAPP-A has been accepted for publication: well done Alan Simpson for leading this work. This mighty tome, reporting from our cross-national study into care planning and coordination in acute mental health inpatient settings, has now proceeded to the production arm of the NIHR and is scheduled to appear in gold open access form towards the end of the year. In the meantime, work is progressing to produce papers for journals. More on these to follow in due course.

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PhD opportunity

KESS2With Nicola Evans and Rebecca Playle I’m on the look-out for someone to begin a full-time PhD in the autumn, investigating the interventions and processes that promote young people’s connection to their education, friends and families during inpatient mental health care. This is a Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarship (KESS2), which is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) West Wales and the Valleys programme. It has also been developed in collaboration with Cwm Taf University Health Board which is making a contribution to the award.

For those interested, the studentship has been explicitly designed to build on our RiSC evidence synthesis, about which I have previously written here, here and here. We found significant knowledge gaps in this previous project, which we’re now anticipating this PhD will begin to fill.

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#MHNAUK Lecturer wanted

The clock is winding down on the call for abstracts for the 23rd International Mental Health Nursing Research conference, taking place in Cardiff on September 14th-15th. As readers of the relaunched website of Mental Health Nurse Academics UK will know, nominations are currently being sought for the inaugural MHNAUK Lecturer. Reflecting the work of MHNAUK the Lecture will:

[…] be delivered by a mental health nurse in, or out of, the UK who in the opinion of the MHNR committee, the Chair and the Vice Chair of MHNAUK has made a significant contribution to the promotion and enhancement of mental health nursing education, research, policy and/or practice.

Perhaps, over the coming bank holiday weekend, readers of this blog might give some thought about possible nominees? We’re welcoming self-nominations, and nominations coming from others.

As always, spread the word!

 

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