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by Susan Aitkenhead, RCN Scotland
02 April 2021
Associate feature: Prioritising mental health nursing

Wokandapix via Pixabay [CC0]

Associate feature: Prioritising mental health nursing

The impact of the past year on the nation’s mental health cannot be underestimated. For so many, issues such as social isolation, financial worries and bereavement are understandably taking a toll.

There are also worrying signs of the severe psychological impact on our health and social care staff, who will need long-term support as they process the sustained pressure and individual trauma of caring for others though the pandemic.

We’ve seen disruption to the delivery of mental health services, including delays to diagnosis and treatment. These services were already under strain with only 75 per cent of those requiring care being referred for psychological therapies, and 60 per cent of children and young people accessing CAMHS starting their treatment within the 18 week target before the pandemic.

While the long term effect on our mental health will not be known for some time, the next Scottish government must act quickly to build capacity within our mental health services to be able to support those who need it as we move into recovery.

Mental health nursing staff are fundamental in the delivery of these services with expert skills and knowledge to deliver the right care and treatment. But over the past five years we’ve seen nursing vacancies rise with over 660 posts unfilled at the end of last year.

Growing the mental health nursing workforce is vital. Rather than a figure being based on a best guess or identified funding, we want to see systematic modelling to project the growth required in the mental health nursing workforce and a fully costed workforce plan in place by the end of this year.

Recognition of the consequences of not supporting mental health, and support for the services that provide the right treatment and clinical care, need to be at the centre of Scotland’s recovery from COVID-19.

Susan Aitkenhead is Director, Royal College of Nursing Scotland

This article is sponsored by Royal College of Nursing Scotland

www.rcn.org.uk/scotland

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