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Practice nurses need training to combine physical and mental health needs

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Practice nurses need to support mental health pati Practice nurses need to support mental health patients with physical health

Practice nurses and GPs should have better training to be able to tackle the low levels of physical health screenings taken up by people with mental health conditions says the Mental Health Taskforce.

In a major report published this week, the Mental Health Taskforce urges NHS England to create and develop pathways for practice nurses and GPs to take responsibility for delivering physical care screenings, outreach, carer training and onward interventions in line with NICE guidance. This model should include outreach workers or carer training to support people to access primary care because many people with psychosis struggle to access services.

Figures from the Royal College of General Practitioners found that more than four out of five practice nurses are given responsibilities they are not trained in and that 42% having no training at all in mental health.

Professor Sheila Collins, BMA board of science chair, said: 'The suggested direction for mental health services in this report is promising, but despite recent rhetoric, services have been going from bad to worse. Those suffering from mental illness need to see these pledges fulfilled, and be able to access the care they need and deserve.’

According to the report 9 out of ten adults with mental health problems are supported in primary care. Despite this only around half of community teams were able to offer an adequate 24/7 crisis service. By 2020/21 NHS England should ensure that a 24/7 crisis service is available in all areas across England and that these services should be adequately resourced. This comes from the findings that a number of community mental health teams are inadequately staffed and these two things could be linked.

Ian Hulatt, the professional lead for mental health at the Royal College of Nursing, said that community mental health teams have suffered as a consequence of cuts that have occurred and they cannot compensate for the loss of services that local authorities were providing. 'So this is an austerity related outcome. However, the good news is that the Crisis Care Concordat has been able to achieve local agreements between services on crisis management between police and health services. There's good examples of how nurses working with police colleagues can drop the number of people that go to police custody,' he said.

'So there are some things that are working well but a 24/7 service that responds to people with mental health remains an unrealised ambition,' he adds.

Based on the recommendations and findings laid out in the report, the government has pledged to invest £1billion by 2021 into improving mental health services. This includes services for children and young people, quicker access to talking therapies and funding for perinatal mental health services.

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