Nurses have been told they must highlight the effects of NHS efficiencies on the quality of services and not let politicians label them as simply having a vested interest.
Howard Catton, head of policy development at the Royal College of Nursing, issued the warning this week at a conference on Reshaping the Nursing Workforce held at The King’s Fund in London.
He said there was a danger that nurses’ views on the effects of the £20bn of NHS savings could be brushed over and that they needed to flag up the potential dangers posed to patient care.
He said: “The complexity of the reform agenda is a real problem. What’s really important here and the opportunity for nursing here is to position itself around the quality agenda. Let’s not let politicians or anybody else paint us as just being a vested interest, who would say that, because it’s about pay, terms and conditions.
“Let’s take quality, let’s take patient centred, let’s take clinician led - things that we would support - and lets interrogate and scrutinise to make sure that the policies do actually deliver on those principles.”
Mr Catton said the RCN was very concerned about the low profile given to nurses in the Health and Social Care Bill 2011, which had its second reading this week. He said nurses’ role in the bill’s frontline reforms was not explicit enough and this was reflected generally in central government’s attitude towards getting advice from the profession.
For example, Mr Catton said despite the retirement of chief nursing officer Christine Beasley being just weeks away in March, the arrangements for when she was gone were still unknown.
He said: “I think that’s deeply worrying and if I then compare it to what was going to happen to the appointment of the chief executive post of the Independent Commissioning Board [being brought in by the bill] that was an appointment that was timetabled to be made in Autumn next year.
“We had the announcement about [NHS chief executive Sir] David Nicholson before Christmas. I am not being critical about the appointment of David Nicholson but it’s about the profile and importance of nursing and hence our concern.”