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What is a mental health nurse and how do I become one in the UK?

A mental health nurse delivering in-home care to an elderly woman.

How to become a mental health nurse in the UK? What are their duties?

Mental health encompasses an individual's emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing. Mental health is one of the largest disabilities in the UK, with approximately 45.8 million adults, or one in six individuals, reporting symptoms of common mental health problems. It is now widely accepted that mental illness is a very prevalent issue in the UK, whether it appears as anxiety, depression, or low mood and emotional challenges

This article will discuss mental health nurses, their duties and responsibilities, their skills, and how to become one in the UK. 

What is a mental health nurse? 

Registered Mental Health Nurses (RMNs) are nurses who specialise in supporting individuals with mental health issues. According to records, as of November 2022, over 38.9 thousand mental health nurses worked for the NHS in England. The number of mental health nurses employed by England's NHS Hospitals and Community Health Services (HCHS) increased from 2016 to 2022. 

As a mental health nurse in the UK, you can specialise in working with specific age groups, such as children or the elderly, or specific areas, such as eating disorders, psychosis, personality disorders, drugs and alcohol, melancholy and anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). 

You may work with patients from a variety of settings, such as: 
1. Their own homes 
2. Community health centres 
3. Hospital psychiatric wards or specialist units 
4. Hospital outpatient department 
5. Specialist units 
6. Secure residential units 

What are the duties of a mental health nurse?

Mental health nurses in the UK adhere to the Nursing and Midwifery Council's Code of Conduct to ensure they satisfy all professional, legal, and ethical requirements for working in the NHS. According to the code, nurses must always prioritise patients, practise effectively, maintain safety, and foster professionalism and trust. 

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is a requirement for nurses in order to maintain clinical supervision and remain up-to-date with the latest medical knowledge. Apart from this, the NHS also offers a wide range of training and developmental programmes to enhance the skills and abilities of a mental health nurse. 

Mental health nursing in community service involves supporting, monitoring, and managing medicines, care planning, counselling, and advocacy for a group of people. In a hospital setting, there is an emphasis on care, safety and risk management, teamwork, and therapeutic and recreational activity to help prepare for discharge. 

A mental health nurse collaborates with other healthcare professionals in multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) to provide service and treatment to individuals in both outpatient and inpatient settings. Among these professionals are typically psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, dieticians, pharmacists, therapists, and others. Interventions may be pharmacological, psychological, educational, social, or occupational and are tailored to the individual's requirements. 

As a mental health nurse, here are some of the duties and responsibilities you are expected to carry out: 
1. Assess and talk to patients about their conditions and discuss the best way to plan and deliver their care. 
2. Building a rapport with patients so as to encourage trust while listening to and interpreting their needs and concerns. 
3. Ensuring correct management of medicines, including injections, and monitoring the results of treatment. 
4. Responding to distressed patients in a non-threatening manner and attempting to understand their source of discomfort. 
5. Assisting patients to manage their emotions through de-escalation techniques. 
6. Preparing and participating in group and one-on-one therapy sessions, both individually and with other healthcare professionals. 
7. Provide evidence-based individual therapy, such as cognitive behaviour therapy, for depression and anxiety. 
8. Organise various social events so that the patients get to socialise and reduce the feeling of isolation. 
9. Preparing and recording patient records, care plans, and risk assessments. 
10. Ensuring that the legal requirements for a particular setting or a group of patients are maintained. 
11. Working with patients' families and their carers to educate them on how to help the patient with their mental health problems. 

In case you are a community mental health nurse, here are a few more roles that you are expected to do:

1. Visit the patient's home to monitor their progress and carry out risk assessments to ensure their safety and welfare are taken care of. 
2. Working with patients' families and community healthcare teams to monitor the patient's progress and attend meetings to review and make alterations to the care plans. 
3. Identify whether or when patients are at risk of harming themselves or others. 

What are the skills required to work as a mental health nurse in the UK?

Here are some of the skills a mental health nurse should possess: 
1. To assess patients and search for signs of tension or anxiety, one must have excellent observational skills. 
2. Strength, stamina, and physical endurance are necessary for employment in hospitals and residential units. 
3. The ability to effectively communicate with patients and their families. 
4. Ability to handle challenging situations and take decisions quickly. 
5. Emotional resilience and a non-judgemental approach. 
6. Time and stress management
7. Empathy for patients and their circumstances, as well as the ability to counsel them on how to manage these conditions. 
8. The ability to assist others in overcoming the stigma associated with mental health. 
9. A disposition of patience, compassion, and kindness 

How does one become a mental health nurse in the UK?

To become a mental health nurse in the UK, one must first complete a degree course at a university. Entry requirements can vary depending on where and at which university you want to study. 

A bachelor's degree typically requires a minimum of five GCSEs with a grade of C or higher, preferably in English language or literature and a science subject, as well as two A-levels or equivalent level 3 qualifications. Some universities may ask for three A-levels or the equivalent. If you already have a degree, you will be able to study for a post-graduation qualification. 

There are other ways to become a mental health nurse, such as nurse degree apprenticeships and nursing associate apprenticeships. 


A fully qualified mental health nurse's salary in the UK ranges from £25,655 to £34,581 on Band 5 of the NHS Agenda for Change pay rates. As mental health nurses gain experience, they will move to Band 6 or 7, where the salary ranges from £35,392 to £50,056. 

Work hours

As a mental health nurse in the UK, you will typically be required to work 37.5 hours per week, which includes evenings, weekends, and bank holidays. In a residential or hospital setting, 24-hour care is required, and you will likely be put on various shifts. If you work as a community mental health nurse, you will likely have regular hours. However, you need to carry out on-call duties in emergency situations. 

Nurses Group is the leading nursing agency in the UK that provides healthcare professionals who can render several services to care facilities throughout the country. Check out our service and career pages for more information about our services and job opportunities. 

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