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The University of Southampton
Health SciencesPartnerships & enterprise

New advances in mental health services

Workforce development work by academics in Health Sciences has won national recognition. The Department of Health has praised the University of Southampton’s partnership with the Hampshire Partnership NHS Trust to develop the new role of Mental Health Practitioner; its story has been told in the National Institute for Mental Health in England workbook More than just staffing numbers.

The new position has resulted in more graduates considering a career in mental health. A major, ongoing, research study indicated that the mental health practitioners have made a positive impact upon the care received by users of the service.

Adult mental health services have undergone major expansion and reconfiguration over the past decade to provide more flexible, accessible and targeted therapies and services which are more community based. Trusts needed to have the right number of staff, with the right knowledge and skills in the right place to deliver client-focused and effective services. Yet, shortages of suitably qualified nursing staff meant wards were, on occasion, being staffed by unqualified staff.

Working closely with the Trust’s Chief Executive, who wanted to adopt a radically new approach to attracting staff, Health Sciences and four healthcare provider organisations came up with the idea of a new role (Mental Health Practitioner) and an associated two year post-graduate diploma training programme.

Top-level buy-in between the five organisations was effective in developing the role and designing and delivering the training. The involvement of staff, service users and carers in the process of developing the role and planning the training was critical to ensure that it delivered what was important to service users. The practice of other professions has changed over time and the Mental Health Practitioners have now proved themselves to be a valued part of the workforce.

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