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Conservatives would 'trust' nurses to care without top-down targets

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Top-down targets, such as maximum waiting times in A&E, would be dropped under Conservative proposals for the future of nursing.

Plans to re-shape the nursing profession were published by the Conservatives last week as part of a wide-ranging consultation on what nursing should look like over the next decade, should the party win the next general election.

The document said: ‘It makes no sense that so much of nurses’ time is spent meeting government targets for performing administrative procedures rather than using their initiative and judgement to deliver the care their patients need.

‘We will abolish targets, trusting nurses to focus wholly on patient care, with clinical performance judged not by targets but by the health outcomes achieved for patients,’ it stated.

Under the proposals, nurses would also have the ‘contractual right’ to act as whistleblowers with anonymity and guaranteed protected from disciplinary action, as revealed by Nursing Times in March.

They will be given the ‘contractual right to raise their concerns directly with the NHS regulator, the Care Quality Commission’, the consultation document said.

Additionally, under the proposals, the standards and quality of nurse training across different institutions would be assessed by the Quality Assurance Agency and one-year preceptorship programmes could become the norm for all newly-qualified nurses, as Nursing Times revealed last week. 

It also suggested that a programme would be set up to allow newly qualified nurse representatives to sit on trust boards. ‘We are considering a pilot programme that would allow a junior nurse representative to sit on the board of a trust on a rotational basis. This could provide an opportunity for [giving new] ideas to those taking decisions. It would have the added benefit of allowing nurses at a junior level to understand the wider operations of an NHS organisation,’ it said.

The document said it noted concern from some nurses about the move to an all-graduate entry level profession. In order not to alienate people who wuold have traditionally entered via the diploma route, the proposals suggest the ‘gateway to a nursing degree could reach beyond the traditional ‘A’ level route, enabling those with other qualifications, like NVQs, to access courses’.

In the meantime, the discrepancy between non-means tested bursaries for diploma students and means-tested bursaries for degree students would also come under scrutiny. ‘This [discrepancy] provides a perverse incentive to study for a diploma which we want to tackle – we will listen to any cost-neutral reforms to address this,’ the document stated.

In addition, the Conservatives have proposed that ‘block grants’ – such as Non-Medical Education and Training budgets – for both pre- and post-registration nurse training would be abolished. Instead money for training would follow individual students and staff in a tariff.   

Other plans could see the current variety of job titles in nursing ‘simplified’ to reduce ‘much confusion’ over the level of expertise that accompanies them.

Nurses must give their responses to the consultation document, via shadow health minister Anne Milton at miltona@parliament.uk, by 30 August.

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Nursing simply does not require a degree-level education. Nurses should not, of course, be discouraged from pursuing this after qualiying.

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  • I agree with Philip Woodin that Nursing does not require a degree-level education. I think that the requirements of the role itself, and the need to prove ourselves to others including the medical profession, has blurred our perception of educational requirements. By all means encourage nurses to develop academically, but don't exclude those who have so much to give to the profession, but who do not necessarily have the academic ability. Nursing is not about being able to construct a decent essay!

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  • What happened to the good old days of practical nursing???
    Students need more confidence practically.
    Knowledge behind is obviously extremley important but ask any newly qualified nurse - they learn more when working practically.
    Dilploma should be kept and the decision left with the nurse on whether they would like to go to degree level or not.
    Talking about a shortfall of nurses - is this not going to put more people off??

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