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Scottish NHS ‘must not get complacent’ over positive report

Scottish authorities ‘should not be complacent’, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), despite a report from the Nuffield Trust comparing the country’s NHS favourably over the rest of the UK.

Learning from Scotland’s NHS is a report put together by the trust to analyse what advantages Scotland holds over the other countries’ healthcare systems. Particular praise was given to the country’s methods of seeking improvement to quality and safety.

The Scottish Patient Safety Programme (SPSP), introduced in 2008, was highlighted as ‘exemplary and the keystone of quality improvement’ for the way it directly involves clinicians and managers. It has recently expanded into mental health, primary care and maternity, bringing with it ‘highly specific’ interventions and targets for improvement.

Lead author Mark Dayan said: ‘Scotland’s well thought-through system of improving patient safety and quality of care works by engaging frontline staff in the process, and importantly the country has stuck with that approach rather than chopping and changing every couple of years.

‘The dark cloud on the horizon threatening these strengths is potentially serious financial problems. Scotland’s NHS has the same resource constraints as England and Wales, but doesn’t yet have a medium-term plan for dealing with them – and in a harsh political environment, open debate and difficult decisions can seem impossible.’

Northern Irish women will have abortions in England funded by government

Abortions will now be free for women in Northern Ireland when they travel to England to have them, the government has announced following a vote on the Queen’s speech.

In Northern Ireland, abortion is illegal with very few exceptional circumstances and the DUP – who currently have a deal with the Conservative government – are staunchly against the practice. However, in a first test of their agreement, MPs voted in favour of the government funding Northern Irish women who want to come to England to have an abortion.

The decision was welcomed by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), who see abortion as a healthcare matter which should be decriminalised everywhere and made available to all women who need it.

RCM director for Northern Ireland Breedagh Hughes said: ‘The RCM is very pleased with this announcement and looks forward to seeing the details of this crucial agreement. This is a significant step forward for women in Northern Ireland.

‘We already know that women in Northern Ireland are purchasing abortion pills illegally online as many cannot afford to travel to the UK to receive the medical treatment they need.

Vulnerable children ‘heading for explosive situation’ if health visitors not funded

Health visitors need to ‘collaborate with the community’ to help out a number of children equivalent to the population of Manchester that a Children’s Commissioner report has found to be living in vulnerable situations.

According to Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, there are 800,000 children aged 5-17 suffering from mental health disorders, 700,000 live with families that have ‘vulnerabilities’ and 1,200 have been identified as victims of modern slavery.

The figures were described by Ms Longfield as the ‘tip of the iceberg’ as many children remain undiscovered due to the unavailability of data. Ms Longfield will be requesting data from local authorities and government departments over the next year in an attempt to fill in the gaps of her report.

She said: ‘It is shocking that half a million children – a number equivalent to the entire population of Manchester – need direct intervention or care from the state because they are living vulnerable lives.

‘Yet even more shocking is that this is only the tip of the iceberg. The actual numbers are likely to be much higher. The truth is nobody knows the exact number of vulnerable children.

‘What we do know is that even these numbers are unacceptably high. Our ambition as a nation should be for all our children to live happy and healthy lives. This report shows that millions are not doing so – and that has to change.’

Demands to ‘scrap the pay cap’ as inflation at four-year high

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has called for the pay cap on nurses’ wages to be lifted after it was revealed inflation has hit a four-year high and continues to outpace pay growth.Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed inflation running at 2.9% in May this year, as pay growth slowed to 1.7%.

Nurses’ pay rises have been capped at 1% for the past seven years, leading to several nursing groups considering or announcing protest action.

A years-long policy of capping pay rises for nursing staff at 1% annually was expected to continue until 2020, but the Conservative minister appeared to make concessions while speaking at NHS Confed17 in Liverpool on 15 June.

Mr Hunt told his audience of NHS senior managers he had a ‘great deal of sympathy’ with nurses, who he believed do ‘an absolutely brilliant job’. Following announcements from the NHS across the UK that the cap would continue, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) decided in a ballot among its members to engage in a ‘summer of protest action’ in opposition.

‘I have had a very constructive letter from [RCN chief executive] Janet Davies. I will be meeting with her and will make sure the conversation is reflected back to the chancellor before we make that decision.

Inspiring new nurses to go into general practice

Written by: Crystal Oldman

|Dr Crystal Oldman

I am inspired to see and hear about the work going on across the UK to promote community and primary care as an excellent place to work for newly qualified nurses. The early indications of the career outcomes are really positive.

Many of the examples I have learned about were highlighted in 2016, when the QNI was commissioned by Health Education England to undertake a project exploring examples of good practice and innovation in supporting student nurses on practice placements in the community and primary care.

In doing this work, the QNI also explored the barriers to expanding placement experiences and how these may be overcome.

There were fabulous examples of university programmes that provided a full simulation of delivering care to patients, families and carers in their homes, with the realistic challenges that nurses face in this care environment.

The results of the project were shared at the QNI conference in 2016 and inspired many delegates to explore the potential to replicate the innovations in their own areas.

The project also identified the potential for more practice placements in the private, voluntary and independent sectors, including residential and nursing homes.

In many areas, general practice has been supported to develop a range of student nurse placements, with the support of practice learning facilitators across a locality.

When politics and care collide

We need ‘strong and stable nursing’, ‘for the many not the few’.

Sorry about that; I think I have contracted a nasty bout of election-itis.

The bad news is, no matter who wins the NHS faces more years of austerity, as none of the main political parties is promising to spend enough to close the gap between the amount of work the NHS is obliged to do—and the amount of work it is paid to carry out.

Just to cheer you up: health spending as a percentage of GDP is set to fall. Things are going to get tighter. So, who should nurses vote for?

There is an acid test. A test that takes us to a place none of us want to remember. It takes us to a time and events that were painful, beyond belief and that NHS still struggles to live down. Events where nurses where were at the very centre.

The place I am talking about is very different now. It is a very fine, well run hospital, staffed with skilled and enthusiastic nurses. I know, I’ve been there. I’m talking about Mid-Staffs.

The hospital wrote its name in the history books, but not because people were uncaring or stupid. It was because they were driven, by political imperatives, to abandon their purpose—targets instead
of tenderness. Counting the bottom line meant it was no longer possible to count on compassion.

The politicians of the day wanted all hospitals to segue from NHS Trusts to Foundation Trusts. That required a financial rigour they are unable to deliver without cuts, and a focus on the demands of the regulators and not the needs of the patients, relatives and carers. Staffing—the biggest cost—was cut, shortcuts taken.
The front line’s voice could not be heard above the din of the management bugle. So morale plummeted, standards dropped and everyone became inured to suffering.

What turned good, honest, educated, well-trained people into an army of job-fillers?

Pay restraint: time for action?

Ask any nurse what the worst part of their job is, and you’ll likely get a spread of answers. Some might cite long hours, a lack of resources, or understaffing. However, where the profession will be united nationwide is in their discontent over the continuing pay cap.

In March 2017, the NHS Pay Review Body decided to continue the 1% pay cap for NHS staff in England, leading to outrage in the nursing profession – who constitute the largest workforce in the NHS. According to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), continuing pay restraint in the NHS has led to a 14% real-terms cut in nurse pay since 2010.

‘This deals a bitter blow to nursing staff across England,’ said Janet Davies, chief executive of the RCN. ‘The nursing profession is rightly held in high regard but kind words don’t pay the bills. With this announcement, the Government will deter new people from joining the nursing profession at the very moment it is failing to retain staff and European colleagues in particular head for the door.’

Nurses, however, have not taking the decision lying down. The RCN recently conducted a ballot on NHS pay. Chair of RCN Council Michael Brown said that the 52 000 members who returned the recent pay poll had sent a strong message to Council.

RCN Congress 2017: Party leaders make their bids for the nursing vote

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Lib Dem leader Tim Farron both appeared at the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) Congress 2017 in Liverpool to stake their claim for the nursing vote in 8 June’s general election.

Speaking to a packed hall on 15 May, delegates heard the Labour leader pledge to allow NHS unions to negotiate on pay with independent pay review body decisions being respected.

‘We want nurses to be paid properly,’ he said.

Mr Corbyn endorsed the RCN’s work as a union and professional body and said he understood why the pay poll action had to be taken, as nurses working in the NHS continue to face a real terms pay cut while the country is facing a future with 40,000 fewer nurses.

He said he was determined to reintroduce the student bursary in England and recounted his experience of speaking to a group of student nurses. They told him that the only way they could afford to train without a bursary would be by having a partner to fund them.

He described this situation as ‘utterly short sighted and counterproductive,’ and said that restoring the bursary would protect the future of nursing. Mr Corbyn also promised his government would legislate for legally enforceable safe staffing levels in hospitals and introduce equal status for mental and physical health. He said his government would bring in a Minister for Mental Health.

But when asked about retirement ages for nursing staff, he left Congress waiting, saying all would be revealed in Labour’s manifesto, launching on 16 May.

RCN Congress 2017: Nurses can send ‘powerful message’ to government in RCN chief’s speech

Nursing is still the best profession in the world, according to the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) chief executive.

Speaking in her keynote speech at the RCN Congress, Liverpool, on 14 May, Janet Davies reflected on a variety of issues currently concerning nurses nationwide but praised staff for their continuing dedication to their work.

She referred to nurses’ efforts to assist victims of the Westminster attack in March, as well as a nationwide poll which showed 93% of people say they trust their nurses.

However, a recurring theme in Ms Davies’ speech was pay – which has been capped by 1% rises on the NHS for seven years running. She said 41,000 RCN members – 78% of those who voted – were willing to go on strike over pay.

A ‘summer of protest action’ has now been announced in response to the mandate.

Ms Davies said: ‘The RCN has never been on strike. We’ve never even balloted our members. But 41,000 of you feel so strongly about the way you’re being asked to pay for the UK’s economic problems that you’re prepared to take this historic, unprecedented step.

‘That’s a powerful message from you. The next government must surely have to listen.

‘But the truth is, the Trade Union Act means we need an even stronger mandate if we’re to consider any action. And while 41 thousand is a lot, it doesn’t give us that.