Severe mental illness, statutory supervision and mental health nursing in the United Kingdom: Meeting the challenge

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Within the United Kingdom a combination of limited resources and public fears about the behaviour of mentally ill people living in the community has led the government to prioritize those with severe mental illness. In support of this legislation has been passed which provides for those mentally ill deemed 'at risk' to be supervized in the community against their will. This supervisory role will be mainly undertaken by mental health nurses. Through examination of relevant British and American literature, this paper argues that mental health nursing at a national level lacks a defined role which the new legislation may provide, thereby enhancing the profession's voice in overall mental health policy formulation. Such a role, however, also poses important questions for mental health nurses' practice, their relationships with users, colleagues and the wider society. Such issues may have unforeseen negative consequences for users. It is argued that the legislation will pose important dilemmas for mental health nurses in these domains. It is argued that a proactive research agenda needs to be established which is relevant and of use to practitioners when confronted with issues in their supervision role. Areas for future research are suggested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)698-706
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1998


  • Coercion
  • Community mental health nurses
  • Future research
  • Government policy
  • Impact on practice
  • Public attitudes
  • Responsibilities
  • Severe mental illness
  • Supervision after care


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