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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 April 2006, 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK
Mental health shake-up announced
Hospital corridor
Mental health hospitals can be depressing places
Mental health campaigners have welcomed a shake-up of mental health nursing announced by the government.

Mental health nurses will be urged to spend less time doing paper work and more time with patients.

More psychological therapies will be provided as alternatives to drug treatments, and there will be efforts to improve care on mentally ill wards.

A spokeswoman for the charity Mind, said patients had often said they felt "alone and abandoned" on wards.

The government has said it efforts will be made to improve recruitment and retention of mental health nurses, through better career structures and new kinds of nursing roles developed.

Too often do we hear of a lack of interaction between nurses and patients
Sophie Corlett

There will also be moves to improve the image of working in the mental health field by presenting positive messages about the mentally ill to the media.

Health minister Rosie Winterton said: "The time is right to provide mental health nurses with a new direction and clear future role in order to deliver government reforms such as the Mental Health Bill, personalised care and choice."

The shake-up comes in a report following a six month consultation with mental health professionals, providers and action groups.

Mental health charity Mind said there had been a real issue about lack of training of mental health nurses on in-patient wards which had often been used as a "holding bay" for patients.

'Black days'

Sophie Corlett, director of policy at Mind, said she was delighted nurses would be encouraged to engage more with service users and take a more active approach to their recovery.

"Too often do we hear of a lack of interaction between the two, particularly on wards where patients may feel alone and abandoned," she said.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity Sane, said: "In our experience, the lives of mentally ill people and their families can be transformed where they have regular contact with a skilled and compassionate nurse.

"However, callers to our helpline report bleak days on wards, with minimal contact with nurses and therapists and little to do.

"We therefore welcome the proposal that nurses should be freed from administrative work to spend more time in direct contact with patients, looking to their physical and psychological wellbeing."

Jane Harris, of the charity Rethink, said: "Time and time again, people with severe mental illness have said that what they really need is someone to talk to.

"We hope that these new plans will finally help to ensure that this very basic wish is fulfilled.

"But in the context of major cuts to the NHS and mental health services in particular, it seems unlikely that staff will have enough time to spare to give people the help, support and human contact they really need."


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