Inadequate training is undermining mental health care, King’s Fund told

Inadequate training is undermining mental health care, clinical training expert Dr Sheila Hardy claimed at a King’s Fund conference on mental health in primary care.

Hardy, a visiting fellow at the University of Northampton, pointed out that the Health Education England mandate commits to providing education and training “to the highest standards”.

“In my experience that is not happening whatsoever. What I find when I talk to commissioners is that education is often a low priority. It is often a tick box exercise.”

She added: “Everyone is talking about getting training done, but there doesn’t seem to be an actual system to get that going.”

“In fairness to commissioners they are often expected to deliver education with no funding structure, and even if they manage to get it they can’t get the clinicians released from practice.”

Mental health nurses are being blocked from addressing patients’ physical health

She claimed that mental health education in primary care “comes bottom of the list” because it is competing with mandate training.

“Often when training is provided it is very ad hoc,” she said, adding that she had seen training delivered to hit CQUIN – Commissioning for Quality and Innovation – targets which “wasn’t going to affect practice whatsoever”.

Mental health nurses are being blocked from addressing patients’ physical health: “Even if they want to look at the physical health of patients they are not supported by the managers – the structures aren’t there. There is a need to train managers and Commissioners [about mental health and integrated care], not just clinicians.”

Staff focused on physical illnesses “will struggle to support their patients emotionally. They need education and they need assistance, and they need to be aware of local services and what they provide”.

Her research indicated that practice nurses did not even know about much of the training developed by the Royal College of GPs for them, and a survey of 390 registered nurses in 2013 showed that 82% of them had dealt with mental health issues for which they had not been trained.

She argued for a national approach to mental health education with an agreed minimum standard, similar to that for diabetes care.

Health Education England has been approached for a response.