New NHS safe staffing framework for mental health wards published

NHS England has launched a new practical guide to help ensure the right people with the right skills are recruited into the right inpatient mental health settings.

The Mental Health Staffing Framework, which focuses on inpatient care, was commissioned as part of the NHS England’s ‘Compassion in Practice programme’. It was developed by an independent group of directors of nursing who undertook a rigorous review of the available evidence and drew on their extensive experience.

Amongst its objectives is to equip mental health leaders with the skills and knowledge to plan and deliver safe staffing, it will also provide a means of assessing their services against agreed best practice.

Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said: “There is a clear absence of best practice guidance available for mental health staffing at the moment, which is why this newly developed framework is so important.

“Staffing requirements for mental health wards are completely different to a regular inpatient ward. The focus is obviously more on psychological than physical care, but reactive and unplanned interventions are also more common, people stay for longer and a higher percentage of people are detained rather than there by choice.

“Developed by nurses for mental health leaders, the framework aims to ensure that mental health inpatient wards have the right staffing level for their specific needs.

“This is just one component of a significant ongoing programme of work that NHS England and its partners are undertaking to ensure the NHS is safely staffed with the right people, with the right skills.”

The focus of the framework is on inpatient staffing, but work is underway on a similar guide for community mental health services. It will feed into the work of the Mental Health Taskforce on establishing the right balance of staff in the many settings treating those with mental illness which is expected to publish at the end of the year.

There is an interactive guide that goes into the detail of this framework.  The guide is also available from the Health Education West Midlands’ website.


  1. Terry Gammell says:

    Every single picture of staff within the guide is from acute health. Not one picture from a MH setting. Why?

    • RPC says:

      Whilst acknowledging most everyone accesses acute general care at some point in their life, regardless of ascribed diagnoses or syndomes, this is a poor show from NHSE.
      I thought the ‘Cinderella Service’ label was left locked in the last century!!
      Was someone too lazy to search the photo archive for more appropriate representation of the services????

  2. Val Bailey RN says:

    My recently qualified brother-in-law is a MH RN ; he works on an acute 20 bed ward for mental health patients and is usually the sole RN on his shift with 2-3 health care assistants. When the ward manager is on duty she stays in the office and takes no part in caring for the patients or directly supervising their care. He has no mentor and at nights and weekends no senior RN to go to for advice.They have 3 vacant RN posts and there were 52 applicants for his post but are making no efforts to recruit staff.Can this be considered safe staffing? He is close to leaving because he cannot provide all the care his patients need and I have suggested he and my sister join me in New Zealand, where such a ward at my local hospital would have a minimum of 2-3 RNs plus a shift charge nurse, and 1-2 HCAs per shift. They also provide excellent mentorship and on-going in-service training.