CSG member NELFT helps pioneer ‘duel competency’ nursing

Cavendish Square Group member, North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT), is pioneering a project to combine both physical and mental health training for nurses.

The project gives nurses the opportunity to experience different clinical and care environments, rotating their training with six months in A&E, as part of a community team, or helping patients with mental health problems.

The project aims to improve nurses’ ability to use holistic nursing skills and enhance the quality of care of older adult patients, regardless of whether their primary health issue is mental or physical.

NELFT is currently involved with two such programmes. The First Destination Rotational Nursing project is an initiative through which newly-qualified nurses follow a common 18-month programme for both mental health and physical health nursing.

The second programme is a new two-year rotational programme, in collaboration with Barking and Thurrock Hospitals (BTUH), which gives nurses the opportunity to experience working in both acute hospital and mental health environments.

The pioneering programmes are being led by NELFT Rotational Nurse Lead Paul Chesnaye, who said: “the rotational programme offers a complete holistic approach to nursing care. The nurses will develop a much better understanding of how to care for patients with different needs, and of the importance of always considering both their physical and mental health - as well as their social wellbeing - irrespective of the primary health issue.”

Paul, when he first carried out research among nursing students, was surprised to discover that most students had no experience of mental health nursing at all. Meanwhile, physical health nurses were receiving six weeks of mental health training in their first year, but by the time they had qualified it seemed like a distant memory. It was clear to Paul that both approaches were unsatisfactory.

Programmes such as these which recognise the importance of integrating mental and physical healthcare, not only benefit patients’ physical and mental health but also the wider economy.

It is well known that many patients have complex mental and physical health conditions but it is not always clear how they interact. The CSG is therefore fully supportive of a more integrated, joined-up approach between mental and physical healthcare. This is important in ensuring that the best possible combination of care, that meets all a patient’s needs, can be given. A strong focus on this approach will pay dividends, not only for patients, but also for the whole NHS by increasing efficiency in the patient journey and in the interaction between mental health and acute services. 

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