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Mental health nurse admin condemned

A new report claims a lack of mental health nurses is having a detrimental impact on patient care.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) study reveals 42% of nurses believe low staffing levels affect patient care at least once a week, while two-thirds consider the current number of dedicated nurses to be insufficient to meet patient needs.

The study shows a third of mental health nurses' time is spent on administration and clerical duties, with 73% of those who work in the community believing that too much time is spent doing paperwork.

More than half (52%) of those polled said they work excess hours several times a week.

And a total of 43% of those questioned said acquired skills such as psychological therapy, family-centred approaches and prescribing, are not being used.

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.

"We need to ensure nurses are fully supported by appropriate staffing levels and proper access to the training they need to update and maintain their skills."

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Royal College of Nursing

Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"I am a mental health specialist nurse and independent prescriber in depression/anxiety and stress related illness. I am employed directly by a GP practice and receive well in excess of 500 referrals per year for depression/anxiety and stress. Since being emplyed here five years ago the GP practice has recognised the benefits of psychological therapies being delivered in their practice. As demand for this service far outweighed my capacity, the practice has now employed a second mental health nurse to increase the service to meet client need. There are still waiting lists for this service even though it is short term intervention based. The GPs recognise there is enough client base for a further nurse but cannot afford to employ more staff. One of the developments in this post was to design and implement a reduced need for lengthy filling in of paperwork. This included designing templates for assessment, care plans, prescribing record and risk assessment. These are available online at the practice to download and are already printed with standard data such as GP address, telephone numbers and nurse therapist name. Care Plans can be printed utilising core templates and individualised using choice of many interventions from a drop down list. Appointments are 45mins with 15min admin time between patients" - Karen Martin, Fife, Scotland

"I do agree that there is a shortage of mental health nurses in the community as well as the wards. This has implications on delivery of quality services as well as issues around patient and staff safety. I also agree that most nurses spend a lot of time on paper work, especially community psychiatric nurses, we are not only nurses but we carry out some duties which are more suitable for social workers like filling in benefit and housing forms, which takes a lot of time. We mental health workers have extra responsibilities and these also cover the mountain of paper work we go through that ensures that our backs are always covered and our PIN numbers protected. As a result there is not much time to spend interacting with the patients. At the end of the day the patients miss out on that quality service that clinical governance emphasises on. We need more mental health nurses, the ratio of patients to nurse should be revised in acute inpatients services" - Numbi, Westminster

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