An influential Conservative MP has quizzed the government on its plans to scrap the nursing and midwifery advisory unit at the Department of Health.
Dr Sarah Wollaston, who chairs the cross-party health select committee, has submitted a series of written questions to the department on the controversial plans.
As previously reported by Nursing Times, the decision to scrap the Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions policy unit has been made as part of wider cost-cutting measures.
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However, nursing leaders have expressed anger and concern at the move, arguing it will mean nursing no longer has a voice at the highest level of policy-making.
At the Royal College of Nursing’s annual congress yesterday, members voted unanimously to campaign for a “strong, permanent and expert” nursing voice at the “heart of the Department of Health”.
It followed a debate in which union members, including its president Cecila Amin, stressed the profession “will not be marginalised” if the plans go ahead.
Dr Wollaston, a former GP, asked health secretary Jeremy Hunt what steps he intends to take to “ensure nurses are consulted on the department’s future policies” given the closure of the unit.
She also wants to know “what mechanisms he plans to put in place to ensure ministers receive impartial nursing advice”.
Dr Sarah Wollaston
One concern expressed by nursing leaders, including Unison’s head of nursing Gail Adams, is the loss of “clear, objective and impartial advice”.
There have also been concerns about a lack of consultation over the proposal to shut down the unit, which will see the loss of seven staff.
Dr Wollaston, who is Conservative MP for Totnes, also asked the health secretary whether staff and “external stakeholders” had been consulted.
Finally, she asked what steps Mr Hunt would take to ensure UK nursing was effectively represented at the World Health Assembly and at other key European and international policy gatherings.
However, the department has said it is “absolutely committed to ensuring the voice of nursing is heard loud and clear in all of our policy-making”.
Changes made through the “DH 2020” programme “are being done transparently and following extensive engagement with staff”, a DH spokeswoman told Nursing Times.