Skellern Lecture, JPMHN Lifetime Achievement Award and MHNAUK meeting

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Geoff Brennan begins his lecture

Earlier this month I made the trip to the University of Greenwich to celebrate this year’s Skellern Lecture and Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing (JPMHN) Lifetime Achievement Award. First up was Geoff Brennan, whose lecture was titled The dark art of influencing inpatient mental health nurses. Over his career Geoff has worked as a consultant nurse, and has edited (with Cath Gamble) the textbook Working with serious mental illness. He now serves as Executive Director of Star Wards, and in his talk gave an energetic account of hospital mental health nursing now and in the past, and the skills and qualities which underpin this work. Geoff has long been a champion for inpatient nursing, but in his talk he was generous, too, in acknowledging the contribution made by others in this field. Special mention went to Len Bowers, who led the Safewards trial and who (until his retirement) oversaw the dissemination of findings and the work of promoting the uptake of these around the world.

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Michael Coffey presents the JPMHN Award to Philip Burnard

This year’s JPMHN Lifetime Achievement Award went to Philip Burnard, Emeritus Professor in the School of Healthcare Sciences at Cardiff University, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to introduce Phil to those present. Phil’s oeuvre is a remarkable one, comprising books and papers on interpersonal and communication skills, research methods, ethics, culture, stress and burnout, and much more. The Scopus database lists 181 articles which Phil has authored, including one (A method of analysing interview transcripts in qualitative research) which has been cited well over 1,000 times. Phil gave a frank, and drily humorous, account of his early life, his career in nursing practice and academia, and his experiences of depression. I enjoyed hearing Phil speak, too, of his attachments to shoes and hats (as the photo in this post confirms).

Big congratulations indeed to Geoff and Phil, and worth noting that information on nominations for future Skellern Lecturers and JPMHN Achievement Awards can be found here. The day following this year’s event involved a return to the University of Greenwich, hosted by Deborah Watkins, John Crowley and colleagues, for the summer meeting of Mental Health Nurse Academics UK. Our surroundings were, surely, the grandest in which we’ve ever gathered as a group, being within the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site. Our meeting was particularly well-attended, with people making the journey from all four countries of the UK. Guest speaker was Dave Munday from Unite the Union, who gave an update on the #MHnursingFuture campaign. Also discussed were the new NMC standards and the assessment of mental health nursing students’ practice, MHNAUK’s recent responses to consultations and position papers, and (via a presentation from Mary Chambers) research impact. We meet again at the University of Essex in the Autumn.

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#MHNR2018 scientific committee and more

img_0567-1Today I’ve been at this year’s meeting of the International Mental Health Nursing Research Conference scientific committee. This convened at the Royal College of Nursing headquarters in London. We had a good range of abstract submissions to deliberate over, and people can expect emails soon informing them of our decisions. We’re also pleased to have been able to identify our annual Mental Health Nurse Academics UK Lecturer for 2018. I dare not make an announcement on this front in this post, and shall wait for official communications to be made first.

Hopefully #MHNR2018, which takes place in Manchester in the middle of September, will be a lively and well-attended affair. There is, it has to be said, space for the conference committee to receive and deliberate over a larger number of conference abstracts than it did today. For #MHNR2019, my early request is: spread the word, and get writing. And for #MHNR2018, for people who missed the abstract submission date: do consider, if possible, participating as a delegate anyway.

Elsewhere, having been stuck in the PLOSONE editorial and peer review system for a spectacularly long period, this week’s good news on the mental health research front includes the acceptance for publication of a paper reporting the COCAPP metanarrative review of care planning and coordination. This has been lead authored by Aled Jones, and once it becomes available in the public domain I’ll post a link. Also accepted for publication this week is a paper lead authored by Jane Davies, derived from her PhD which I supported as a supervisor with Danny Kelly. Jane’s study was an investigation into choice and control in young people with cancer, and this article accepted by the European Journal of Oncology Nursingreports some of Jane’s main findings.

Talking of publications, later this week I head into a meeting of the Cardiff University Press editorial board. Up to now I haven’t written much on this site about the Press, which has been around since 2014 and supports journal publishing in diamond open access form. The Press is in the process of extending into monograph publishing, too, having struck an agreement with Ubiquity. For people looking to move their existing journal titles, or to found new ones, the Press is a good place to go and information on opportunities of this type can be found here.

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Joining mental health nursing

Mental health nursing is important and fulfilling work, and offers a fine and rewarding career. More people also need to be doing it. By way of background, last month Mental Health Nurse Academics UK (MHNAUK) submitted a response to Health Education England (HEE)’s Facing the Facts, Shaping the Future draft health and care workforce strategy for England to 2027. Contained in this HEE draft are figures on trends in the numbers of nurses, by field of practice, employed in NHS England over the period 2012 to 2017.

Growth/reduction in NHS employed nurses and midwives by field, 2012 to 2017 (extracted from Facing the Facts, Shaping the Future)

Obvious at a glance from this figure is the decline in both mental health and learning disability nursing numbers over time. Elsewhere HEE also describes a 14% mental health nursing vacancy rate.

Now, the Nursing Times reports a reduction for the second year in a row (£) in the numbers of applications for nursing degrees received via the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Declining applications need to be viewed in the context of the removal of bursaries for students of nursing enrolling at English universities. In MHNAUK we have said, more than once, that we fear the loss of bursary support poses a particular threat to our field of practice. The same applies to learning disability nursing, where at least one degree programme closed last year (£).

Evidence like this is why initiatives like #MHnursingFuture (see also here, for the Twitter account) are important. Initiated by Dave Munday from Unite the Union, this is all about celebrating the work of mental health nurses and encouraging others to join us. As an occupational group we haven’t always been good at describing what we do, and why what we do is valuable (£). This needs to change, now more than ever.

With all this in mind this may be a good time to remind people of this useful page, hosted on the MHNAUK website, on joining the profession. As this says:

Forget all the stereotypes about straitjackets and Victorian asylums; modern mental health nursing focuses on helping and supporting people from all walks of life with a variety of ‘common’ mental health disorders (such as anxiety and depression) as well as more serious disorders such as drug and alcohol problems, suicidal feelings, psychosis, bipolar disorder and dementia. They also play a key role in promoting mental health and well-being among the public and preventing mental health problems occurring in the first place.

This helpful MHNAUK resource also includes suggestions for further reading, included in which are texts describing in detail many of the skills that mental health nurses routinely use and the context in which they go about their work. And, for any reader contemplating applying to any of the 60+ mental health nursing degree courses offered throughout the UK, do give some thought to our undergraduate nursing programmes here in the School of Healthcare Sciences at Cardiff University.

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Strange days

2018-03-14 15.44.10Suffice to say that this has been the most peculiar of months. Large parts of the last four or five weeks have been spent on picket lines, at rallies, in community teach-outs and working to contract. I’ve joined with friends, old and new, in support of decent pensions for university staff. The Wikipedia page dedicated to the current dispute reports that the strikes are the most sustained to have ever taken place in UK higher education. A first offer to University and College Union members to end the action having been rejected, with the prospect of a further 14 more days of strikes across campuses looming a new offer has been tabled today (March 23rd). Next week will be critical, I suspect.

Elsewhere, I managed to disappear to the always-spectacular Cornwall for a week. That’s where the photograph above of the boat was taken. In the world of mental health nursing research, preparations for #MHNR2018 are now in full swing, with more information (including on abstract submission) to be found here. Our theme for this year’s conference is Place, Purpose and Politics: Re-imagining Mental Health Care, and we’ll be at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester on September 13th and 14th. Our confirmed keynote speakers are excellent in every way: Dr Eleanor LongdenProfessor Sir Robin Murray, Dr Jonathan Gadsby and Professor Sonia Johnson. The fifth keynote speaker is…

…potentially you, reader. For the second year running we’re inviting nominations to deliver the Annual Mental Health Nurse Academics UK Lecture. This is a super opportunity for a mental health nurse who has made a significant contribution to the promotion and enhancement of mental health nursing education, research, policy and/or practice to speak at a major international event. Don’t be shy!

In other news, this month I was pleased to see the publication of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Dissemination Centre’s Forward Thinking themed review of research on support for people living with severe mental illness. I was a member of the project steering group for this piece of work, and the finished product is a fine resource indeed. I commend it to all those interested in the evidence base for mental health services and interventions, and am also pleased to report that the review included many studies led by, or otherwise involving, researchers with backgrounds in mental health nursing: Safewards, the City 128 extension, SPICES, RiSC, COCAPP, COCAPP-A, RESPECT.

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Why I’m on strike

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Paul Brown, me, Graeme Paul-Taylor: thanks to Kerry Hood for the photo.

I have a fantastic job, which I enjoy very much. But today I haven’t been doing it. I came into it in 1997, leaving a post as a community mental health nurse in East London to relocate to South Wales as a Lecturer in Community Nursing at what was then the University of Wales College of Medicine (UWCM). As a family we made this move even though my initial contract was fixed for a two year term. It was renewed for a further two years, and only then did I become a permanent member of staff. As part of making my transition from the NHS into higher education I transferred my health service pension into the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

I was recruited into UWCM with the chief responsibility of leading a full-time, post-registration, course preparing nurses to work in community mental health settings. I led that programme for 14 years, and over that time taught many hundreds of registered nurses and helped them on their way towards specialist, regulatory body-approved, qualifications. I have continued to contribute to, and to lead, modules involving many other groups of health care professional students, all the way from pre-registration undergraduate through to post-registration postgraduate. I have supervised and assessed umpteen student dissertations, and have supervised and examined many postgraduate researchers. I very much value my work with students, and think that I’m reasonably good at it.

Then there are the other bits of my job, which nowadays occupy as much, or more, of my time as teaching and teaching-related activities. Over the years I have become a researcher, working with excellent colleagues here and elsewhere on projects examining features of the mental health system. I help with the running of the School of Healthcare Sciences as a manager and mentor of valued colleagues, and contribute to the work of a large number of committees and groups. I do work external to Cardiff University, including with Mental Health Nurse Academics UK, at other higher education institutions as an external examiner, and for journals and funding bodies as a reviewer of manuscripts and grants.

Like all the academics I know I work long hours, and accept that my job comes with high expectations. These include securing research income and publishing excellent research papers. For me, 10 to 12 hour working days are exceptionally usual, with far fewer (but certainly not non-existent) hours spent working at weekends. It is easy to become absorbed in what I do. I respond quickly to requests for help and feedback from students and colleagues, and if I’m chipping away at a grant application or a paper for publication can soon become engrossed in the task at hand. Oddly, whilst the hours are long it doesn’t always feel that way, and I appreciate the benefits of being able to work away from the office and to have control over my diary. All in all, I do my best across the full range of activities associated with being an academic. And, as I wrote at the outset of this post I enjoy what I do, and enjoy doing it in Cardiff.

Having committed myself to university life for over two decades I conclude that it suits me well, and find it hard to imagine doing anything else until I retire. Which brings me to today. I’m far from being the most active of Union members, and from time-to-time have had my gripes about the University and College Union (UCU). But today I downed tools to join colleagues up and down the country on strike, as a protest against threats to dismantle our pensions. At the heart of the dispute is a highly contested valuation of the USS fund, and a proposal to move from a defined benefits to a defined contribution scheme. This means a potential loss in retirement of up to £10,000 per year for USS members. Here’s a useful leaflet explaining this in a little more detail:

And for those wanting more on the technical front, there’s this blogpost which I personally found very informative.

Academics are paid modestly considering the qualifications and transferable skills they have, and as I have demonstrated here put the hours in to get the job done. Many, as I did, put up with time-limited contracts in the earlier parts of their careers. We care about our students and our research. We take additional satisfaction when our work makes a contribution to society. In my field this is through the preparation of future health care professionals, and via generating an evidence base for the improvement of practice and services. In return, having a decent pension – of the kind I and others signed up for when we first came into the university sector – does not seem like much of an ask.

I also remain acutely aware of how much more precarious the position is of younger academics. If proposed pension changes go through, people in the future will enter university employment with only defined contribution USS pension arrangements as preparation for their eventual retirements. First saddled with student debt, these are talented individuals who will be employed in their early working years on fixed-term contracts, ahead of settling into careers characterised by working weeks of 60 hours or more for salaries falling far short of a king’s ransom. A working life over, they (and not their employers) will have carried all the risk to secure pensions the value of which will reflect, quite terrifyingly, the fluctuations of the stock market. It isn’t right.

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New year

Happy new year. In December 2017, I was pleased to see Values in Health and Social Care: an Introductory Workbook published, co-written with Ray Samuriwo, Stephen Pattison and Andrew Todd. It is a product of the Cardiff Values group, which began life over 15 years ago, and is the third book of its type that I’ve been involved in. The first was Values in Professional Practice: Lessons for Health, Social Care and other Professionals and the second was Emerging Values in Health Care: the Challenge for Professionals. This latest outing is very hands-on, and is packed with exercises for students and their teachers. I hope people find it stimulating and useful.

SamudIn previous posts (see here and here) I’ve written about Mohammad Marie’s PhD, which investigated resilience in Palestinian community mental health nurses. A fourth paper derived from this study has just been assigned to the January 2018 issue of the journal Health. This is a review of literature, and addresses (amongst other things) the connections between resilience and the idea of ‘Samud’. By following this link a gold open access version of the paper can be downloaded for free.

Elsewhere, I realise I have neglected to add any recent updates on this site about the work of Mental Health Nurse Academics UK. Last year was an active one. In addition to our usual three meetings we exercised our responsibilities as a Research Excellence Framework nominating body, and responded to a variety of consultations and calls for evidence: a nursing workforce inquiry initiated by the House of Commons Health Select Committee; the Nursing and Midwifery Council‘s proposed standards for education; both NHS Improvement and Centre for Mental Health reports on the mental health workforce; and more besides. Our meetings for this year are all scheduled, and it will be good to catch up in Birmingham in February, Greenwich in June and Essex in October.

 

 

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#MHNR2017 keynotes and planning for #MHNR2018

The International Mental Health Nursing Research Conference 2017 took place in Cardiff on September 14th-15th, and the videos of the keynote speakers have now been uploaded to the conference YouTube channel. For a shortcut, here they are:

 

 

 

 

The #MHNR2018 Committee meets at the RCN headquarters in London on December 18th, where planning will begin in earnest for next year’s event. On the agenda will be the conference theme, ideas for keynote speakers, dates and venue choice. We’ve opened a discussion on selecting a theme with this message:

…and have been pleased to receive lots of excellent suggestions to get us started. More to follow!

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