Publish date: 21 February 2024

On Mental Health Nurses Day, Gillian Kelly, Deputy Director of Nursing at West London NHS Trust said mental health nurses have a crucial role to play in attracting new talent to the profession, as the NHS tackles a reduction in mental health nursing staff.  

Mental health nurses are an important part of the NHS workforce, in improving outcomes for people with mental health problems. But data from NHS Digital in 2019 shows the mental health nursing workforce decreased by nearly 11 percent since 2009. 

Gillian Kelly, Deputy Director of Nursing
Gillian Kelly, Deputy Director of Nursing

Gillian said: “As mental health nurses we know how rewarding it is when we can make a difference to the lives of our patients and their families. We know because our patients tell us so. We must work together to encourage future generations of mental health nurses to join the profession. We’ve heard from numerous staff who said they were motivated to join the profession, and a common factor that came up was the influence of other mental health nurses. That speaks volumes and it is an opportunity for us to use that influence and give future generations an insight into the enriching world of mental health nursing.” 

The NHS Long Term Plan highlights the recruitment and retention of mental health nurses as an ongoing priority.

Mental Health Nurses Day is in its sixth year, and was started by the Royal College of Nursing’s Mental Health Forum partly to address the drop in mental health nursing staff and encourage more interest in the specialism. 

Today, mental health nurses at West London NHS Trust have been talking about what brought them into the profession.

Thembelani Nyath, a community psychiatric nurse at the Trust said his mother’s job as a mental health nurse had a huge impact on him.

“I believe the most important part is giving patients hope when they come into the service looking for ways to improve their lives. My very best friend had issues with mental illness and my mum who was a nurse at the time was the only person who could provide me with some containment,” he said.

Craig Ballantyne, Mental Health Nurse and Team Manager said:  “I became a nurse because I’ve worked in healthcare from a young age and I was privileged to work with some really good nurses that I looked up to and I felt like they’ve looked after my development so they’ve shaped me as a student and they’ve made sure I was well looked after and that I was given development opportunities that I needed to get where I am now.”

Melville Jimmy Garber, Practise Development Nurse said: “I can recall some points in my career which have been quite fundamental in my life as person and as a professional. I came to the ward and I could see the patient was agitated and it was my job to let them know that I’m here to support them.”

As for what it takes to be a mental health nurse, Nicola Miller, Nurse Consultant at the Trust said one has to be patient and non-judgemental.

“You must work from the heart and have kindness, empathy and compassion to do the job,” she said.

If you’d like to find out more about a career in mental health nursing in the NHS you can look at our videos on YouTube. 

You’ll find nurses like Kayode Idris sharing invaluable insights into the profession.

“I’ve had various offers from different quarters but I remained in the NHS, there are a lot of things money cannot buy. I would definitely recommend a career in the NHS, especially here at West London,” said Kayode.