Mental health nursing

The NHS Long Term Plan set out a commitment to improve services and widen access to care for children and adults needing mental health support. Our mental health nursing workforce has a key role to play in delivering these ambitions. From nursing associates to registered nurses and those in advanced practice, mental health nursing staff have a wide range of skills that are crucial to the delivery of mental health services and patient care.

The work of the mental health nursing team at NHS England supports mental health nursing colleagues to deliver high quality care across the NHS in England and improve patient experience and outcomes.

This work includes:

  • Supporting the development, health and wellbeing of the wider mental health nursing workforce and increasing the visibility of the vital contribution mental health nurses make in the delivery of safe and effective care.
  • Developing and implementing evidence-based mental health nursing interventions.
  • Sharing good practice and strengthening mental health nursing leadership.

This page highlights some of the team’s key areas of work and signposts to useful resources to support the mental health nursing workforce.

A career in mental health nursing offers a high quality, meaningful clinical experience. If you’re interested in learning more, you can find information on the Health Careers website or on our NHS careers in mental health page.

Engaging and supporting the mental health nursing workforce

Supporting mental health and wellbeing

Other resources

Engaging and supporting the mental health nursing workforce

Mental health nurse’s handbook

Developed by NHS England, the mental health nurse’s handbook is a resource for mental health nurses across England and their employers to guide their preceptorship and supervision conversations, helping to focus on some key areas of practice. It is intended as a brief practical guide and provides links to other important and helpful resources.

Mental Health Nurse Consultant Forum

Our Mental Health Nurse Consultant Forum supports and oversees the contribution of mental health nurse consultants to national programmes of work from NHS England, the Nurse Directors Forum and other arm’s length bodies.

The forum:

  • Supports policy development and reviews the implementation of national initiatives that impact on mental health nursing.
  • Helps to provide consistency and parity in mental health provision nationally through system leadership.
  • Influences mental health service delivery and evidenced-based practice across the system.
  • Provides a community of innovative practice informed by co-production.
  • Increases and shares research in mental health nursing.
  • Provides consistency in nurse consultant roles and responsibilities nationally and offers leadership development for forum members.

For further information about the forum, please contact chairs Julie Onyegbula: julie.onyegbula@nhs.net and Dr Ann Cox: ann.cox17@nhs.net.

Shared Professional Decision-Making Council for Mental Health Nurses

Our Shared Professional Decision-Making Council for Mental Health Nurses follows the principles of collective leadership to ensure issues in mental health nursing policy and practice are addressed collaboratively within the profession.

The process of shared decision making offers a non-hierarchical approach to driving quality improvement, supporting innovation and ultimately delivering better outcomes for individuals, populations and mental health nurses.

Membership of the council is open to registered mental health nurses who work at point of care. For more information, contact the mental health nursing team: england.mhworksteams@nhs.net

Professional Nurse Educator (PNE) role

The mental health nursing team and NHS England’s People Directorate have been working closely together to identify key actions to help NHS provider organisations address some of the most challenging issues that adversely impact the retention of our mental health nursing workforce.

The Professional Nurse Educator (PNE) role is a new clinical leadership role which provides modelling, oversight and support at ward/unit level of clinical practice with a focus on supporting registered mental health nurses, internationally recruited nurses, preceptee nurses and student nurses.

You can find further information and updates on our Professional Nurse Educators (PNE) FutureNHS page. This Nursing Times article also explores how PNEs are key to tackling issues in mental health care.

Demand Signalling work for research priorities for mental health nursing

Demand Signalling is the process of identifying, prioritising, and articulating the most important research questions and innovation challenges that need addressing to deliver against the ambitions set out in the NHS Long Term Plan. Work is underway to develop a mental health nursing research demand signal to complement the wider mental health demand signal for mental health.

In collaboration with key stakeholders, including mental health nurses, academics, and those with a lived experience of using mental health services, we’re developing future priorities for mental health nursing research to improve patient care.

Resources to support teams working with children and young people

Resources are available to support systems to collectively support children and young people with mental health needs.

This framework for systems sets out six recommendations for supporting children and young people with mental health needs who present in acute paediatric settings and clinical teams. The recommendations include ensuring that five key principles underpin joint working to support children and young people and a culture where we work collaboratively in providing holistic care.

The children and young people mental health inpatient competence framework outlines the knowledge, skills and behaviours required of staff working in children and young people mental health inpatient settings. The framework also aims to enhance the quality of care received and experienced by young people and their parents, carers, and families by providing a standardised approach.

Healthcare support workers

Healthcare support workers (HCSWs) are an important part of mental health nursing teams, and they undertake a range of roles and tasks including providing peer support, undertaking therapeutic observations and supporting patients through their recovery.

Through NHS England’s HCSW Programme, NHS England is supporting trusts to recruit, retain and develop HCSWs in mental health settings. The programme’s FutureNHS workspace provides an opportunity to share good practice, information and updates.

If you’re interested in finding out more about healthcare support worker roles, visit the Health Careers website. This video also explores the day in the life of a healthcare support worker working in mental health settings.

Healthcare support worker certificate – children and young people’s mental health inpatient settings

The healthcare support worker certificate has been developed as a bespoke training opportunity for the healthcare support workers working in children and young people mental health inpatient settings, aligned with the children and young people mental health inpatient competence framework. It enables healthcare support workers to gain the skills and knowledge to provide high quality therapeutic care and interventions to children and young people.

Back to top

Supporting mental health and wellbeing

Professional Nurse Advocate Programme

The Professional Nurse Advocate (PNA) Programme delivers training and restorative supervision for colleagues right across England. It equips PNAs with the skills to facilitate restorative supervision to their own colleagues and teams, in nursing and beyond. A version of this programme exists already for maternity colleagues, where outcomes point to improved staff wellbeing and retention, alongside improved patient outcomes.

Community of practice for internationally educated nurse (IEN) Professional Nurse Advocates (PNAs)

The community of practice has been developed as a network to support professional nurse advocates (PNAs) across England who are also internationally educated nurses. The network offers clinical support and a space to share best practice to support and amplify the role, voice and value of our internationally educated PNAs. You can find more information about the community of practice on the PNA FutureNHS Collaboration Platform

Suicide postvention toolkit

In partnership with Samaritans and NHS England, NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network has published a suicide postvention toolkit to help organisations to develop and implement a process to manage the impact of an employee suicide on colleagues and offer support.

Back to top

Other resources

Mental health nursing FutureNHS collaboration platform

Hosted NHS England’s mental health nursing team, the mental health nursing FutureNHS collaboration platform is a space for mental health nursing colleagues across England to network, share learning and best practice and find out about opportunities for engagement and collaborative working.

The mental health nursing team also hosts regular webinars to support the mental health nursing workforce. You can find out more about upcoming events on our FutureNHS platform.

Commitment and growth: advancing mental health nursing now and for the future

This report published by Health Education England in April 2022, offers a review of mental health nursing in England, focusing on the identification of key issues faced by the profession of mental health nursing, and offering system-wide recommendations to overcome them as part of the future development for the profession.

Back to top

Get in touch

The mental health nursing team is led by Dr Emma Wadey PhD., RN (Mental Health). You can get in touch with Emma and the team at: england.mhworksteams@nhs.net