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Manage your money in a changing NHS

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Reform and reorganisation in health services is not new. But arguably the most recent changes have had the most impact on the working lives of nurses. Careers in healthcare no longer necessarily mean careers in the NHS. Rosemary Cook, director of the Queen's Nursing Institute (QNI)highlights a practical resource to help community nurses manage their finances in a changing world.

National pay awards, continuity of employment and an enviable pension scheme can no longer be taken for granted. Many nurses, from frontline to senior management, are finding themselves in unfamiliar territory as they try to understand and protect their financial future.

Primary care provides the most visible example of this seismic shift in the career pattern of health service workers.Many community nurses are facing the prospect of working for new provider organisations at some point in their careers.

'Nurses themselves are setting up or running new organisations and services'

Social enterprises and limited companies are being formed as vehicles for services, private companies are tendering for NHS services and voluntary sector organisations are increasing their share of care provision. They are all encouraged by government policies aimed at creating a competitive provider market. In some cases, nurses themselves are setting up or running new organisations and services and the proportion of staff working outside the NHS is clearly set to increase.

Many community nurses are increasingly concerned about the personal financial implications of these developments. Temporary Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (TUPE) arrangements that protect current terms and conditions for a limited period are helpful, but staff are aware that these will not last, and will not protect them when they move on to a new job.

Nurses directly employed by GPs have long recognised that their decision to work outside the NHS can affect their financial future. For many years they were unable to join the NHS Pension Scheme, and most have a gap in their contributions as a result.

'Changing employers is more than a change of logo'

Now district nurses, health visitors and their colleagues are becoming aware that changing employers can mean more than a change of logo on the badge and new corporate notepaper.

In light of this, the Queen's Nursing Institute has produced a free CD-Rom, 'Money Management - a QNI resource for community nurses'.

The CD encourages nurses to tackle their personal financial review as they would approach a new patient:

  • First assessing the status quo
  • Then planning and implementing changes
  • Finally evaluating the impact of their actions.

Live links to reputable external bodies such as the NHS Pensions Agency (to calculate likely pension income) and the Citizens Advice Bureau ensure that financial information is given by appropriately qualified people, and is constantly updated.

Topics covered include:

  • Working for GPs and non-NHS providers
  • Becoming a nurse partner
  • Coping with student debt
  • Checking your National Insurance contributions
  • Insuring against illness
  • Taking early retirement

More than 1,000 copies of 'Money Management' have been sent out on request since it was launched in April, and some NHS organisations have made bulk orders for distribution to their staff.

The CD was featured on BBC2's Working Lunch programme, and it has been short listed for the Third Sector Excellence Awards.

80% of nurses who returned an evaluation form said that they were planning to review their finances as a result of using the CD, and 95% found it easy to use.

A QNI spokesman said: 'By giving nurses a practical tool to review and improve their personal financial situation, the QNI hopes to provide real help in the face of change, and to encourage more nurse entrepreneurs to take their first steps into the future.'

To order copies of 'Money Management' email

'Money Management' is free to individual community nurses. There is a handling charge for bulk orders.

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