Mental health nurse numbers cut as demand for services rises The loss of thousands of mental health nurse posts over the past four years has left mental health services across the UK under ‘unprecedented strain’, the RCN has warned. The college’s special Frontline First report Turning Back the Clock?, published this week, shows that there are now 3,265 fewer mental health nurses in England than in 2010 – a drop of 8 per cent. In Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the number of mental health posts has been cut by 1 per cent. The report also reveals a significant drop in the number of available beds in mental health services in all four countries. The greatest reduction has been in Northern Ireland, which has lost 35 per cent of available beds since 2010. Scotland has lost 17 per cent, Wales 12 per cent and England 6 per cent. This is despite a 30 per cent rise in demand for services. RCN general secretary Peter Carter, pictured, said: ‘The fact that mental health services are now facing staff cuts and bed shortages is a

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Ministers in England have been urged to set up an NHS credit union to deter staff from taking out costly payday loans. Labour MP Gareth Thomas said establishing a low-interest union that people could turn to in times of need would ensure staff are not vulnerable to taking out high-interest loans, or relying on credit cards or overdrafts. Mr Thomas told the Commons last week that a 20 per cent rise in applications to the RCN Foundation, which helps nurses

shocking tragedy, which is having a real and lasting impact on those who desperately need the right care and support. ‘Despite stated commitments from government to establish ‘parity of esteem’ between physical and mental illness, our report makes clear that there is a gulf between rhetoric and reality,’ he added. The college also warns that the loss of early intervention services means people experiencing symptoms of psychosis and serious mental illness are often unable to access inpatient treatment until they are ill enough to be detained under the Mental Health Act. The number of people being sectioned in England rose by 13 per cent between 2010 and 2013, the report states. A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: ‘Mental health is a priority for this government, which is why we announced last month an additional £120 million to improve care and introduced the first waiting time standards.’ in times of need, in the past two years shows the ‘scale of the problem’. ■ Scotland could become the first country in the UK to impose a legal duty on hospitals to provide healthy and nutritious meals for patients. Health secretary Alex Neil said new standards on the nutritional value of food served in hospitals will be introduced in the new year, and a consultation has been launched on whether to make them legally binding. Hospitals will also face increased inspections on the quality of their food, added Mr Neil, but said the government is investing £300,000 to help boards improve nutritional care.

Retirement Nurses who work past retirement age are scuppering younger staff members’ chances of climbing the career ladder, a Sri Lankan health union has warned. The Health Service Trade Union says that nurses who continue to work beyond retirement age should step aside to give staff on lower bands a better chance of promotion. The union has threatened industrial action unless the government improves working conditions for nurses. Other demands include introducing a five-day working week, plus an automatic pay rise for staff who have completed 12 years’ service. Force-feeding The International Council of Nurses (ICN) has called for the reinstatement of a United States Navy nurse who refused to force-feed inmates at Guantanamo Bay. The nurse, who holds the rank of lieutenant, refused to force-feed a group of detainees on hunger strike who are protesting against their detention in Cuba. ICN chief executive officer David Benton said: ‘ICN strongly affirms that nurses should play no voluntary role in any deliberate infliction of physical or mental suffering.’ The ICN says that the US Navy is deciding what action will be taken against the nurse. Protest over fees More than 1,000 nurses and midwives in the Republic of Ireland staged a protest against a 50 per cent rise in their annual registration fee. Nurses picketed the Dublin offices of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland urging it to reverse its decision to raise the fee from €100 to €150 in January 2015. The board says the increase is needed to cover the cost of changes as the result of new legislation, including holding fitness to practise hearings in public for the first time. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and the Psychiatric Nurses Association of Ireland were involved in last week’s protest.

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Mental health nurse numbers cut as demand for services rises.

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