The Liberal Democrats have said that in government, they would radically overhaul mental health provision in the UK, as well as address challenges facing the nursing workforce.
As part of their manifesto for the 2019 general election, the party have said they would Introduce further mental health maximum waiting time standards, starting with children’s services, services for people with eating disorders, and severe and enduring conditions. Additionally they pledge to increase access to a broader range and number of clinically effective talking therapies so that hundreds of thousands more people can receive this support, with equal access for older people, BAME and LGBT+ patients, and people with autism or learning disabilities.
‘It’s good news that the Liberal Democrats want to end the scandal of children and adults being treated in mental health in-patient units long distances from their homes and families. But this proposal is unlikely to succeed without more staff to make it work – the number of mental health nurses has dropped by almost 4,000 since 2010,’ said Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive of the RCN.
Additionally, the party have announced that they would target extra help for nursing students, starting with bursaries for specialties where shortages are most acute such as mental health and learning disability nursing, linked to clinical placements in areas that are particularly under-staffed.
‘We are also pleased that the Lib Dems have recognised that the removal of the bursary for nursing students in 2016 has badly affected numbers wanting to become nurses, with 30% fewer applications to nursing degree courses since then,’ added Dame Donna. ‘ However, the financial help they propose won't work unless it's restored for nursing students across the board, rather than just those in specialist areas such as mental health as the party is planning. Without this, and comprehensive measures to retain nurses who are already working, political parties are only promising to fill a leaky bucket.’