Back in pre-pandemic January 2020, the idea that a couple of hundred curious mental health nurses and their friends might gather together to share their research, practice development, educational and related projects seemed quite unremarkable. At that time, with the aim of enouraging a gathering of this sort, I published a short post on this site promoting the call for abstracts for the 2020 edition of the International Mental Health Nursing Research Conference.
How much has changed since then. As an organising committee we made a relatively early decision to call off the face-to-face conference originally scheduled for June 11th at Middlesex University. Now, in May 2020, #MHNR2020 is being brought into a new initiative called #mhTV.
The #MHNR2020 scientific committee will be reviewing all abstracts submitted for the intended June 11th conference, and once this work is done we’ll be in touch with invitations for authors to consider turning their presentations into a format suitable for #mhTV. We’ll identify episodes selected in this way as part of #MHNR2020 and publish details on the MHNAUK website. In the meantime, more on #mhTV and on how to submit new ideas can be found here.
One of the consequences of NHS resources being mobilised so decisively towards meeting the threat of the novel coronavirus has been the cessation of much face-to-face nursing and health services research other than that connected with COVID-19. A response in March 2020 from the NIHR included the instruction to delay the setting-up of new non-COVID projects, and to pause ongoing studies, in order that the infrastructure supporting NHS research be brought to bear almost exclusively on efforts to tackle the pandemic.
Meanwhile, one type of research relatively unaffected by the coronavirus outbreak is the evidence synthesis. In Cardiff we have the Wales Centre for Evidence Based Care and, in the early months of 2020, I joined a team led by Nicola Evans and Wales Centre colleagues to start work on a synthesis of the evidence in the areas of service organisation, effectiveness and experiences for children and young people in mental health crisis. Our plans include database searching plus online searching for grey literature, policies and guidance. More to follow as the project unfolds, which in April saw us deep in title and abstract screening.
Here’s a belated catch-up post (the second of three), produced largely with the aim of revitalising this blogsite and summarising recent happenings. This one I’ve dated to March 2020, and the period in which UK was first locking down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Towards the end of the month, Mental Health Nurse Academics UK (which I chair) published this statement on mental health nursing in the coronoavirus crisis. It addressed a number of areas: learning from people with early experience of caring for people with mental health problems and coronavirus infection; looking self and others; service responses and guidance for practitioners; the work of mental health nurses; supporting students; and research. I reflect how, in March 2020, relatively little was being said about mental health in the context of the pandemic. That’s changed, more recently, which I’ll perhaps return to in a later short post.
The first Network for Psychiatric Nursing Research (NPNR) Conference took place in 1996, and the picture at the left is the front cover of the delegate’s handbook. My first visit to the NPNR conference, as a non-presenting delegate, was not until a few year’s later and I’m grateful to Russell Ashmore (the conference’s unofficial historian) for sharing this scanned document. The first presentation I gave at the event was during its seventh running, in 2001 (there having been one year previously in which two events took place); this went with the title Tales from the field: using ethnographic methods to investigate the provision of community mental health care. A glance at my records suggests that, to date, I’ve been involved in 27 papers delivered at the event over the years, as presenter, co-presenter and/or co-author. It’s the single conference I always aim to be at.
The NPNR became the International Mental Health Nursing Research (MHNR) Conference for 2017, and this year’s 26th running takes place over one day, June 11th 2020, at Middlesex University. A call for abstracts has been published on the Mental Health Nurse Academics UK website, and is reproduced here:
Celebrating Mental Health Nursing
Past, Present and Future
26th International Mental Health Nursing Research Conference
11th June 2020
The Burroughs, London NW4 4BT
Call for Abstracts
Follow us on Twitter: @MHNRconf and join in using the hashtag: #MHNR2020
Diversity of presenters, participants and topics will be a priority therefore all presenters will be offered one free place in addition to their own paid attendance which should be used to invite a student, service user researcher, carer, newly qualified nurse or a colleague who hasn’t previously attended a conference.
Abstracts are invited for work based in clinical practice, teaching, activism or research. Those looking at mental health more generally are also welcome, and options for presenting will be in the form of concurrent papers, symposia, workshops or posters under the following topics:
Advanced practice: To include examples of expanded roles, skills and responsibilities for nurses in healthcare services.
Celebrating mental health: To include any activities addressing the history of mental health work or professional identity.
Building communities: To include examples of work to promote community resilience, mental health and diversity and to reduce stigma and discrimination
Creative approaches: To include any examples of creative approaches to promoting wellbeing and mental health.
Activism and social justice: To include examples of rights-based approaches such as addressing restrictive practices, upholding human rights and achieving equality of access and resource allocation for mental and physical health services.
Working across professions and disciplines: To include examples of inter-professional and cross-organisational projects or services
General mental health: Those which do not fall into any of the above can be grouped here
Key dates and registration information
Call for abstracts opens: 28th January 2020
Deadline for receipt of abstracts: 28th February 2020
Confirmation of acceptance: 20th March 2020
Programme announced: 6th April 2020
Registration fees: £130 (for attenders, where this fee includes a place for an attender’s guest)/£70 for students and mental health service users
Please register early as places are limited
Guidance for preparing abstracts
Title: Should be clear, with appropriate use of capital letters that is, at the start of the title and when using abbreviations (RCN not Rcn).
Theme: Abstracts will be considered for one theme only, so please select the one most suitable for your submission (see above).
Word limit: Please adhere to the word limit given below.
Abstracts for concurrent sessions and posters should be no more than 350 words.
Concurrent sessions will be 15 minutes in length, with a further 5 minutes for questions.
Posters should be visually stimulating. Presenters will be expected to make themselves available to speak with delegates during identified poster viewing times.
Abstracts for concurrent and poster presentations MUST adhere to the following criteria:
Abstracts reporting on the results of quantitative research studies must be structured: background, aim(s), method(s), results, discussion and conclusions.
Statistics including sample size and sampling method used must be supplied.
Relevant contextual information must be given (e.g. research setting).
For qualitative studies the abstract must be structured: background, aim(s), sampling method, method(s), specific analytical approach or approaches, main findings, discussion and conclusions.
Theoretical/methodological abstracts and practice and/or education developments must be structured: background, aim(s) of the paper, discussion and conclusions.
For all abstracts authors must specify how the paper contributes to mental health nursing research, education, policy or practice.
All abstracts must be written in English. NB All accepted abstracts will be published ‘as submitted’. It is therefore incumbent upon the author to ensure that the spelling, grammar and syntax are of an academic publishing standard.
Workshop (350 words) will be 70 minutes in length. The abstract should include the aim(s) and proposed outcome(s), content, rationale for delivering the session in this format, how it relates to the conference themes, and description of any activities in which delegates will be invited to participate.
Recommended reading lists: Provide up to five references relevant to your abstract. These should be cited in full using the Harvard referencing system, that: Author, I. (year) ‘ Article title’. Journal name in full, vol #, no #, pp 101-107.
Biography: Maximum of 100 words, written in the third person.
Presenter details and authorship: Please include author details as you would like them to appear in a conference abstract book: forename, surname, qualifications, job title, and place of work. Please put an asterisk (*) next to the presenting author(s).
All abstracts should be submitted using this form:
With this being the Year of the Nurse and Midwife #MHNR2020 is aiming to be the place for mental health nurses to share what they do, and to say why it’s important. I’ll be there, as always, and am looking forward.
Marking the 200 years which have passed since the birth of Florence Nightingale, the World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. In this toolkit the WHO describes these two professions as ‘the cornerstone of the strong, resilient health systems needed to achieve universal health coverage’, and estimates a global nursing workforce of 22 million. That’s a big number, but according to the WHO is still nine million registrants short if sustainable development goals are to be met.
Many people within nursing are already using the WHO’s initiative to channel efforts to promote the profession, and to press the case for investment and expansion. This is excellent, but events to celebrate and advance nursing in the next 12 months must reflect the diversity of the profession, and do more than concentrate only on the (excellent) contributions made by physical health care nurses. Here in the UK we formally recognise four fields of nursing, of which mental health is one, but in the WHO’s toolkit referred to above there is no mention of nursing work in this area.
Mental health nurses can most definitely use 2020 to take, and make, opportunities to talk about what they do, and to say why this is important. Already-confirmed dates for mental health nurses to showcase their contributions include Mental Health Nurses’ Day on 21st February 2020, and a one-day International Mental Health Nursing Research Conference to take place on 11th June 2020 at Middlesex University. As always, for people wanting an accessible introduction to the work of mental health nurses, and on routes to degree-level preparation, this still-current post on the Mental Health Nurse Academics UK website remains as good a place to start as any.
Over the past week I’ve been involved in industrial action as part of #UCUStrikesBack. What I’m not going to do in this post is to explain why university staff are currently on strike, largely because this has already been adequately covered elsewhere (for example, see here and here). Instead, I want to share some picket-line reflections linking what happens in universities with what happens in the health service. These are connections which are not being made frequently enough, including by some who should know better.
As an aside, data of this type are not published here in Wales. They should be. In any event, quite correctly much concern has been expressed about this startling decline in the workforce, with mental health nursing now singled out as a group needing particular help to improve both recruitment and retention.
These campaigns are important. So far, however, in its public pronouncements the RCN has failed to make the necessary connections between working conditions in universities and the present and future education of student nurses. Put simply, an adequate supply of educated, evidence-minded, person-centred nurses demands an adequate supply of secure, well-supported, fairly paid nurse educators and researchers. Nurse academics typically have career trajectories which are significantly different from those in other fields, with implications for their recruitment, retention and development. The modern norm for historians, physicists and sociologists seems to involve years of precarious, post-doctoral, employment characterised by repeated short-term contracts before landing (if ever) much sought-after full-time academic posts. In contrast, with some exceptions nurses are generally recruited into higher education by dint of their practitioner expertise, their posts linked to the servicing of courses of professional study. This was certainly how it was for me: my academic career commenced with an initial series of short-term employment contracts associated with the leading of a post-qualification course for community mental health nurses. In all universities, nurse academics can soon find themselves carrying major teaching and course management responsibilities, often for programmes and modules of study which run more than once across a single year. Demanding education and education-related workloads can squeeze out time for research, scholarship and wider engagement, in workplaces which traditionally value productivity in these areas for the purposes of career progression.
Expanding the number of nurses to fill the gaps which now exist, for which the RCN and others are rightly campaigning, requires thought and careful planning. In the run-up to the general election both are in short supply as nursing numbers become reduced to political soundbites. More student nurses must mean more nurse academics, but in any future rounds of staff recruitment potential entrants will have their eyes wide open. The erosion of university pensions relative to pensions in the NHS does nothing to encourage those contemplating the leap from health care into higher education (or, at least, into that part of the sector in which the Universities Superannuation Scheme predominates). Very reasonably, those considering future careers as nurse academics will also want to weigh up the appeal of doing work which is undoubtedly creative and rewarding with what they will hear about workloads, developmental opportunities and work/life balance.
I also learn, this week, that Leonardo da Vinci saw the making of connections as necessary in order that we might see the world as it truly is. In my working world, education, research and practice are intimately intertwined. It is disappointing that these connections are being missed by organisations which campaign on the state of nursing and the NHS, but which do not (as a minimum) also openly acknowledge the concerns that nursing and other academics have regarding the state of universities. Right now, some words of solidarity and support would not go amiss.
As it happens, MHNAUK is also about to embark on something new: next week we’re inviting nominations for people to lead our Education, Research, and Policy and Practice Standing Groups. Standing Groups are the engines of MHNAUK, and have been led thus far by Anne Felton, Mary Chambers and Neil Brimblecombe (and previously, John Baker) respectively. Big thanks to them for their work: the more that members become involved, the better.
Back in Cardiff, with esteemed co-investigators I’ve again (as I mentioned last month) been pressing on with the NIHR HS&DR-funded MENLOC evidence synthesis into end of life care for people with severe mental illnesses. This is proving to be a big piece of work, but we’re on track to submit our report in spring next year. As a team we’re also thinking carefully about future lines of enquiry, as there is lots still to do in this field.
A final thing to note in this catch-up: I’ve been thinking about what to say at next month’s Making a difference in Wales conference, which is all about taking the Framework for Mental Health Nursing forward. I think there is lots which is distinct about health policy and services in this part of the world, but also recognise the existence of gaps between policy and strategy aspirations, and workplace realities. One to mull over.
With a theme of From Global to Local: Mental Health in a Connected World, the 25th International Mental Health Nursing Research Conference (#MHNR2019) took place on September 12th and 13th 2019 at the RCN in London. The event was organised by Mental Health Nurse Academics UK, the Royal College of Nursing and the International Society […]
Since returning from a week of walking August has included making final preparations for #MHNR2019, which is looking very exciting. Elsewhere, a big part of my work this month has been writing an analysis of qualitative interview data generated as part of a phase 2 trial of 3MDR for military veterans with treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder. 3MDR, or Modular motion-assisted memory desensitisation and reconsolidation, is a novel psychological intervention involving walking on a treadmill towards personally selected images of trauma whilst in the company of a skilled therapist. The study is led by Jon Bisson, and here are Neil Kitchiner and John Skipper talking about what it involves:
Working on a trial has been an interesting, and new, experience for me, and I’ve been learning lots. My qualitative write-up is destined for inclusion in a final report for the trial’s funding body, Forces in Mind Trust, but during this work as a team we’ve also been planning papers for publication.
MENLOC, our ongoing evidence synthesis into end of life care for people with severe mental illnesses (about which I have written on this blog before), is in full swing. We’ve reached the stage where we’re writing up syntheses of the research papers and other outputs we’ve included, organised via a series of themes. More on this to follow in due course.
Next week I’ll be in London for this year’s Eileen Skellern and JPMHN Award evening, hearing Mick McKeown give his Making the most of militant and maverick tendencies for mental health nursing Skellern lecture and Patrick Callaghan deliver his Lifetime Achievement Award address. The day following, June 14th, I’ll be at Kingston/St George’s chairing the summer meeting of Mental Health Nurse Academics UK. One of the things we’ll we talking about is NHS England’s Interim People Plan, which looks to be prioritising mental health nursing as an occupational group in need of support. Here’s a short piece I wrote yesterday for the MHNAUK website, complete with a toxic-looking figure showing the decline in applications for nursing degrees:
The NHS needs more mental health nurses. The most recently available data on the size and composition of the workforce in NHS England, for February 2019, records a total of 36,290 mental health nurses. This compares to an NHS England mental health nursing workforce in September 2009 of 40,602.
Published on June 3rd 2019, the Interim NHS People Plan is about supporting the people needed to deliver NHS England’s Long Term Plan. Chapter 3 addresses nursing, this being the profession where the greatest shortages are found and where the most urgent and immediate action must be taken. Mental Health Nurse Academics UK welcomes the identification of mental health nursing as a priority group, and notes the Interim People Plan’s statement that what must now happen is:
[…] a detailed review across all branches of pre-registration nursing, including a strong focus on the steps needed in mental health and learning disability nursing to support growth in these areas.
The Plan echos Mental Health Nurse Academics UK’s view that undergraduate degree courses offer the best way to secure a future supply of nurses. It also reproduces a figure pointing to a sharp decline in applications for nursing and midwifery courses in England since the removal of bursary support (specifically, a 31% decrease between 2016 and 2018):
The Interim People Plan places an emphasis on what it refers to as ‘the offer’ made by the NHS to its staff. Mental health nursing needs a better offer if it is to improve the recruitment, retention and support of its current and future members. Mental Health Nurse Academics UK will be looking for concerted action in these areas.
My view is that this decline in applications was entirely foreseeable in the context of the removal of bursaries in England. As it happens, students of nursing and other health professions commencing their programmes of study in Welsh universities in Autumn 2019 can expect to be supported through the award of a bursary, in return for working for two years post-qualification in NHS Wales. That’s a good deal, in my book, and is something presented as part of the country’s wider #TrainWorkLive initiative. I’m not entirely sure how far this ‘Welsh offer’ (to borrow the language of the People Plan) is known throughout other parts of the UK: so I’m happy to give it a nudge here.