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Refocusing acute psychiatry, performance management, standards and accountability, a new context for mental health nursing.The term 'performance management' has an aversive 'managerial' aspect, is unappealing to many public sector staff and has an 'image problem'. Perhaps as a consequence, it has failed to make a significant impact on Irish public sector workers, notably mental health nurses. In this paper, performance management is introduced and examined within an Irish healthcare context and with reference to its use in other countries. Some of the challenges faced by Irish mental health nurses and the potential benefits of working within a performance managed workplace are discussed. The paper concludes that performance management is likely to increasingly affect nurses, either as active agents or as passive recipients of a change that is thrust on them. The authors anticipate that the performance management 'image problem' will give way to recognition that this is a fundamental change which has the potential to enable health services to change. This change will bring high standards of transparency, worker involvement in decision making, an explicit value base for health services and individual teams. It provides the potential for clear practice standards and high standards of transparency as well as worker welfare in all aspects, including supporting employment and career progression.