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RCN concerned after mental health hub closures

22 May 2023

A THIRD of mental health hubs have closed leaving a million workers without specialist help, despite the escalating mental health crisis among nursing staff.

The RCN has learned that out of 41 mental health hubs established to support health and social care staff in England, a third have already closed, leaving an estimated one million people unsupported.

A further seven of the specialist hubs, which were launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, have less than a year’s funding available, potentially leaving thousands more staff without vital mental health services.

The closures come despite a deepening mental health crisis among nursing staff. The most recent data on staff sickness from NHS England shows more than 1.5 million nurse and health visitor days were lost in 2022 due to anxiety, stress, depression and other psychiatric illness – on average, one in every five sickness days were lost to mental health issues.

In 2022, 366 nurses died by suicide, a 62% increase from 2020. At RCN Congress in Brighton this week, members voted for the RCN to lobby for the implementation of an integrated suicide prevention programme for the nursing workforce across the UK.

RCN members testified to the mental distress faced by them and their colleagues, including friends they’ve lost to suicide. Registered mental health nurse Chantel Rose told members: “I have more fellow nurses on my caseload than ever before. I could be next. I wish that everyone could normalise speaking about suicide.”

Ruth Bailey, who led the discussion, said: “Death by suicide is preventable. Mental health is everyone’s business.”

The RCN is calling for the government to urgently provide funding for dedicated mental health provision for nursing staff to address this crisis.

RCN Director of England Patricia Marquis said: “There is a stress and anxiety crisis in this profession – across the NHS and social care – as professionals try to cope and do more with less. When nursing staff need mental health support, they deserve it and should not face barriers and delays.

“If nursing staff can’t access support, how are they going to support their patients? Unsafe staffing levels are putting patients at risk while emotionally draining the nursing staff who are desperately trying to provide the best care they can.

“The government needs to understand that when you invest in nursing staff – including their mental health – you’re investing in patients, their safety and a healthier society.”