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There is a growing disparity in the ratio of mental health staff to patients. In fact, one recruitment study has revealed that around 6,000 mental health nurses left the profession between 2009 and 2019. Moreover, as of 2018, there were approximately 2,000 nurses changing their career path every month. In addition, a 2018 NHS report highlighted that 20% of the entire organisation’s vacant nursing positions were in mental health. To make matters worse, hospital capacity for mental health patients is now at 70% in comparison to 2009. These statistics paint a bleak picture. The NHS, with its limited funds and personnel, is having difficulties meeting the increasing demand.

Today, approximately 25% of people in the UK suffer from some form of mental health problem. Fortunately, some of the stigma associated with these issues is beginning to be dispelled. In addition, thousands of new UK nurses are beginning their career in the field of mental health. The government is also lending a hand; by 2021, 21,000 psychiatric health nurse positions will have been created.  

How the public’s perception is affecting the mental health nursing profession.

Despite the importance of mental health nurses, they still face some prejudice from the general public, as summarised by their own experiences:

  • They have to face stigma and the public’s belittling attitude
  • They think local authorities don’t appreciate their contribution and effort
  • They believe that the public still don’t fully understand the magnitude of the mental health issues in the UK

Fortunately, the effort to raise awareness is slowly paying off. While there is still a considerable stigma, the public are showing general support for psychiatric care.

Meanwhile, the more pressing concerns, such as nurse shortages and the increasing demand, are affecting the NHS’s ability to deliver adequate care to people with a mental health condition.   

Settings where mental health nurses are needed.

According to the UK mental health nurse career guide, there are various settings where staff are needed immediately:

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service – Known by its acronym CAMHS, they offer inpatient and community services. You will often work with a team of doctors, social workers and counsellors.

Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit or PICU – This is where patients with mental health conditions that cannot be managed by acute wards are treated.

Acute Wards – Patients in these settings are often separated by age or gender.

Specialist Units – Here, nurses will work with patients with particular conditions, such as eating disorders.

GP Surgeries – Nurses can provide their valued assistance to community patients.

Prisons – Nurses can work in various prison facilities, such as young offender institutes, women’s prisons and high-security units.

Care Homes – Here, mental health nurses provide specialist care to residents as and when required.


Mental health issues are on the rise in the UK. As a result, there is a large proportion of the population that needs help. Unfortunately, there is currently a shortage of mental health nurses, although both the government and the NHS are trying to satisfy the increasing demand. However, the public can also lend their support. They can begin by recognising the contributions of mental health nurses and by seeing them as professionals who are vital in the endeavour to take care of people’s mental wellbeing and welfare. 

Written by Matt Farrah, Thursday 27th August 2020