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'Nurse leaders will need to be strong in voicing their concerns'


The 18 December was an important day for the NHS. The new NHS Commissioning Board set out its guidance on how the health service will be run when it takes over from the Department of Health in April.

Although not yet a household name, the commissioning board will influence the working lives of nurses across the health service.

Its ambitions include making routine NHS services available seven days a week, publishing “real time” patient feedback and introducing a “zero tolerance” approach to MRSA.

However, the main message from the commissioning board boils down to increasing pressure on the NHS to do more with less during 2013-14. Quality of services is paramount, it notes, but so is making the money stretch even further. 

The commissioning board has set out a new role for directors of nursing in acute, community and mental health trusts to help police this challenge. Cost improvement programmes “must be agreed” by nursing and medical directors as “having been assured as clinically safe”, it states.

This requirement should give power to the elbow of nursing directors when faced with staffing cuts or skill mix changes dressed up as “improved efficiency”.

The commissioning board has also instructed clinical leaders involved in commissioning NHS services to check cost improvement plans are “safe for patients with no reduction in quality”.

Last year Nursing Times’ successful Seat on the Board campaign helped to convince the government to make it mandatory for the new clinical commissioning groups to have a nurse on their governing board. Now CCGs must use the advice of these nurses wisely to help ensure patient safety is maintained in the NHS services they commission.

It is also imperative that the commissioning board ensures that all CCGs have the mandatory nurse on the board. A Nursing Times investigation into the first group of 34 CCGs to be “authorised” has found five still do not have a nurse in place on their board more than a year after the policy was announced.

Nurse leaders across the NHS undoubtedly face an increasing challenge next year in ensuring safety and quality is maintained in the face of massive pressure to make savings. They will need to be strong in voicing their concerns and will need the support of their staff and the rest of the profession.

The lessons from Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust about the dangers of putting finance ahead of services should loom large.

Finally, I would like to wish you all a very happy Christmas from everyone at Nursing Times.

Steve Ford, news editor Follow me on Twitter @SteveJFord


Readers' comments (9)

  • So, basically the same people who helped make our lives hell in the first place; are now to have more power?

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  • maybe there is a reason there are long waits - too many patients, not enough money, not enough doctors, hospitals not offering a 7 day service.

    Private hospitals should be completely self-sufficient, have their own ambulances, A&E, ITU and their own staff.

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  • Tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 18-Dec-2012 4:09 pm

    In a nutshell.

    we the willing, led by the unknowing, have done so much with so little for so long we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.

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  • I'm sorry but I don't have much faith in nurse leaders to influence, based on what has happened so far within the NHS. For so long, senior nurses have let things happen, not spoken up, been too scared of losing their jobs to speak up. And one can't blame them when there is a atmosphere of coercion and bullying within the NHS.

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  • I so agree with Rudolph/Tinkerbell 18/12/12 09:01.

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  • Tinkerbell

    so now the whole of the nursing profession is going to be tarnished with the latest appalling scandal of neglect and cruelty.

    If there are any NURSE LEADERS out there who read this site, please get off your sorry arses and DO SOMETHING to protect the nursing profession from these cruel practitioners/managers/chief executives who turn a blind eye to this disgraceful treatment of patients.

    For Gods sake LEAD.

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  • After hearing the news of patients being neglected, and man in his eifgties being. "starved to death" while in patienrs, the whole of this national health service requires an infusion of humanity and compassion before we simply gom into hospital to DIE. Happy bloody christmas!

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  • michael stone

    tinkerbell | 23-Dec-2012 3:31 pm

    I agree with the sentiment - not sure it will happen, and not sure that even nurse leaders currently wield enough power to do that, even if they want to ? The (largely) combined ranks of the medical profession couldn't stop the Act, could they ?

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  • Having been at all ends of the NHS - from HCA to Senior Qualified Nurse Manager, and now a regular patient - the problems have been the same for ages and will remain so until the government finance the service properly, and Management sorts out its priorities from cost control to quality control, and that means more trained nurses on wards, and a better attitude toward patients and junior staff from managment.
    And remeber managers are bullied aswell! I was a Senior sister and was still relentlessly bullied by my boss - a doctor (I was in Research). The threat? An end to my contract...which had to be renwed yearly.

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