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Mental health nursing policy — an exploratory qualitative study of managers’ opinions


M.R. Coleman, Programme Manager, Mental Health Studies, School of Health Science, University of Wales, Swansea SA2 8PP, Wales, Email:


Mental health nursing policy — an exploratory qualitative study of managers’ opinions

During the 1990s, much of the legislation and policy that pertains to mental health services has sought to direct them towards a virtually exclusive concern with the seriously mentally ill, typified by the following recommendation from a recent Department of Health review of mental health nursing that stated: ‘The essential focus for the work of mental health nurses lies in working with people with serious or enduring mental illness’. On the other hand, pressure from the primary health care sector suggests the need for services to be provided for the less seriously mentally ill, particularly through the auspices of general practice fundholders. Following a review of the literature, a small-scale, exploratory study was initiated to seek answers to the following research question: How is the policy focus urging reorientation to the severely mentally ill viewed by nurse managers who have a responsibility through Mental Health Resource Centres and Community Mental Health Teams, to provide mental health services? The study was based within a Welsh National Health Service (NHS) Trust that employed six nurse managers of Community Mental Health Teams (CMHTs). Four of the managers additionally had responsibility for Community Mental Health Resource Centres (CMHRCs). Of the population of six managers, four composed the sample for the investigation. A qualitative research approach was employed, utilizing semistructured interviews as the data collection tool. Analysis of the data revealed that managers were finding creative solutions in order to meet the conflicting demands placed upon them. The research findings also indicated that many of the obstacles to providing a needs-led service were structural in origin, and could be resolved by central strategic intervention.