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Mental Health Inquiry submission in

Media release 21 June 2018

More training and support for mental health nurses wanted

The NZNO Mental Health Section’s submission to the Government Mental Health and Addictions Inquiry calls for a coherent mental health nursing workforce plan that is better aligned to mental health and addictions service delivery, as well as modernised environments for patients.

Mental health nurses make up nearly half the mental health and addiction sector workforce. The submission is mainly informed by a new survey of mental health nurses.

Chair of the NZNO mental health section Helen Garrick says that the combination of a decade of underfunding, growing demand and increasing complexity of need means the workforce is at ‘breaking point’. She says this these factors are exacerbated by a workforce skill mix not matched adequately to demand.

“Our three top concerns are high caseloads, low staffing levels, inadequate community and inpatient services and insufficient inpatient beds,” Ms Garrick said.
“A concerted and planned effort to attract and train mental health nurses is urgent. Our greatest concern is that current undergraduate training does not adequately prepare nurses for entry into mental health services.”

She says while the Mental Health and Addiction Workforce Action Plan 2017- 2021 has a whole-of-system and person centric view, the deficit of the plan is the limited field that mental health nurse training has and it is therefore not adequately preparing nurses for the specialist nursing area.

“The environment nurses are coming into is increasingly unsafe. Over 71% of survey respondents say they had felt unsafe at work,” she said.

More about the Inquiry can be found here on the Inquiry’s Facebook page. (

A number of NZNO representatives are meeting with Inquiry members tomorrow Thursday 21 June in Whanganui. In addition to the above matters, NZNO will raise: the issue of over representation of Māori in mental health and addictions services, the need to bolster kaupapa Māori mental health services and addictions services and, staff safety.

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