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Round-up of last month’s main workforce and policy news affecting UK nurses

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Miss any of the news affecting the profession during January and early February 2017? Catch up with our summary of the main nursing headlines.


Nursing degree applicants fall 23% in wake of bursary loss

The number of people wanting to study nursing has crashed by over 20% this year, according to official figures, which unions said confirmed their “worst fears” about the axing of the bursary.

Overall applicants to study any degree subject have fallen across the UK, but nursing experienced the “most notable decrease”, said the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

Overall applicant numbers for nursing courses across the UK fell by 20% from 54,270 in January 2016 to 43,590 in January 2017. But applicants from England fell by 23%, from 43,800 to 33,810.

Royal College of Nursing

Status of EU NHS staff needs protection post-Brexit

Janet Davies

Controversial plans to axe bursaries and introduce a loans system for pre-registration student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals in England were confirmed last July. The government maintained the move would allow an extra 10,000 training places to be created by 2020, because universities will no longer be restricted by the public purse.

But Janet Davies, the Royal College of Nursing’s chief executive and general secretary, said: “The government needs to take immediate action to encourage more applicants by reinstating student funding.” Unison head of health Christina McAnea added: “The government said replacing bursaries with loans would bring in an additional 10,000 nurses. Instead the exact opposite has happened.”

However, those in the education sector predicted that numbers would bounce back and said the downward trend in applicants would not necessarily affect course fill rates, as they were normally over-subscribed. The Council of Deans of Health said it was “to be expected” there would be fewer applicants in the first year following the funding system changes, adding: “We would expect this to pick up in future years.”

Meanwhile, ministers in Scotland pledged that the student nurse bursary would be “protected” and announced that course places would rise to 3,360 and financial support for students with children. But unions described the 4.7% rise in student places as “modest”.


EU nurse numbers dropped ‘significantly’ post Brexit vote and new language rules

Exclusive: Nurse views on EU referendum revealed

Exclusive: Nurse views on EU referendum revealed

Source: Jennifer Van-Schoor

Exclusive: Nurse views on EU referendum revealed

The rate at which nurses from the European Union are coming to the UK to work has dropped significantly since the summer and has continued to slow until the end of 2016, official figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council have revealed. The number of EU nurses being admitted onto the NMC register dropped from 1,304 in July to only 100 joining in December, according to the figures seen by Nursing Times. The regulator said the drop off could be due to the UK’s decision to leave the EU, the introduction of new language testing rules over summer 2016, or a combination of both.


Labour MPs warn 1% pay rise cap is ‘damaging’ to nursing

Royal College of Nursing

Follow the parliament debate on nurse pay live

RCN members outside the House of Commons

A high profile debate on nurse pay on 30 January saw the government’s 1% annual pay rise cap for nurses branded as “damaging” by MPs. If continued, they said it risked losing the goodwill of staff who were holding the NHS together in the face of “unprecedented” strain. Labour MPs urged ministers to put a stop to the policy – currently in place until 2020 – and instead properly use the NHS pay review body to assess wage rises every year. The debate was set up after a petition against the pay cap was signed by more than 100,000 people. In response, health minister Philip Dunne “denied” any allegation that NHS staff were “undervalued” but said it must be recognised that the “financial and quality challenge facing the NHS is unprecedented”. Prior to the debate, nurses, midwives and students gathered at Westminster to lobby MPs, accusing ministers of relying on the goodwill of staff to keep the NHS running.


Revealed: The hospitals with the worst nurse staffing

NHS Improvement

Nurse staffing shortage is ‘top priority’ for regulator

Source: Kate Stanworth

Ruth May addresses the 2016 QNI annual conference

Almost every NHS acute hospital in England is failing to meet its own nurse staffing targets, an investigation has revealed. Analysis of quarterly hospital-level staffing data by Health Service Journal found that 214 acute hospitals – 96% of those reporting – failed to meet their own planned level for nurses working during the day in October 2016. Meanwhile, 85% – 190 hospitals – missed their target for nurses working at night in the same month. It represents the worst performance for day and night since the journal started collecting staffing data in 2014. It prompted Dr Ruth May, NHS Improvement’s executive director of nursing, to pledge to do more to increase NHS nurse numbers.


Leaders of nurse regulator agree to regulate new nursing associate role

NMC building

NMC building

The Nursing and Midwifery Council is to regulate nursing associates, after the body’s council agreed to accept the government’s request to enter the new role on its register. The Department of Health announced in November that it had asked the NMC to regulate the new role, which is being developed in England to “bridge” the gap between healthcare assistants and nurses. The NMC formally agreed to the DH request during its last council meeting, where its members discussed the risks and benefits of regulating nursing associates.


Hospital nurse and local councillor temporarily suspended by nursing regulator

Hull City Council/Labour Party

Hull city councillor suspended from practising as nurse

Steven Bayes

A prominent Hull politician who works as an adult nurse, has been temporarily suspended by the Nursing and Midwifery Council after his fitness to practise was called into question. Steven Bayes, who works in a role based at Hull Royal Infirmary and is also a councillor for Hull City Council, is facing an unspecified allegation of misconduct. He was issued with an interim suspension order by the NMC at a hearing in December while the case is investigated further. Mr Bayes has been registered as an adult nurse for 32 years, having joined the register in September 1984. Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Hull Royal Infirmary, confirmed Mr Bayes was not at work at the moment.


Former nurse turned NHS manager faces jail after pleading guilty to fraud

Paula Vasco Knight

Paula Vasco-Knight

Paula Vasco-Knight

A former hospital trust chief executive with a background in nursing faces jail after she pleaded guilty to fraudulently paying her husband more than £11,000. Paula Vasco-Knight, former head of South Devon Foundation Trust, and her husband Stephen had pleaded not guilty to fraud at Exeter Crown Court but changed their pleas. The couple will be sentenced on 10 March.


Extent of ongoing abuse in nursing homes revealed

frail older people commission

frail older people commission

Abuse of older people in care homes is continuing to occur and is going undetected, despite the existence of safeguards and regulations, new research has revealed. A study published in Nursing Times found more than 88% of staff at five newly-opened homes in four local authority regions in England said they had witnessed or suspected abuse in nursing homes where they had previously worked. Psychological abuse was the most common type staff reported seeing, followed by neglect and then physical abuse, according to the study, which was based on a survey of 156 staff.


Trust forced to axe fifth of its community nursing team

Homerton University Hospital

Homerton University Hospital

Homerton University Hospital

An East London trust is being forced to cut a fifth of its community nursing staff, in a move experts have described as “logically unsustainable” and a “risk to the quality of patient care”. The 20% reduction in community nurse numbers by Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust follows a decision by City and Hackney Clinical Commissioning Group to stop funding the One Hackney initiative. The trust warned it would lose 14 district nurse posts from a total of 63 at the start of April. It estimated that it would need to add an extra two patients to each remaining nurse’s daily caseload, acknowledging that the move could affect the length of time they can spend with patients.


Student nurse’s Facebook defence of HCAs goes viral

Student nurse

Student nurse’s Facebook defence of HCAs goes viral

Charmaine Briggs

A Facebook post written by a student nurse, which defended the vital role of healthcare assistants, has gone viral. Charmaine Briggs, from Somerset used the social media site to vent her feelings after a stranger belittled the role of healthcare support workers. Ms Briggs wrote on her Facebook page that no one should be considered “just” an HCA. All staff were reliant on each other when they were treating patients, she said. Her post has now been shared more than 44,000 times with more than 143,000 Facebook “likes”. “I had a little rant on my status to let off steam and it just got shared more and more and more,” she said. “I have had hundreds of messages on Facebook, some very touching.”


‘Seismic shift’ in Scotland’s maternity services laid out in major government review


Scottish politicians compete for votes with nursing pledges

Scotland’s flag the Saltire

The majority of maternity care in Scotland should be delivered in community settings rather than hospitals in future, according to a major review. In particular, maternity services should in future see “primary” and “buddy” midwives work together in a community team to ensure women are cared for by the same healthcare professionals, according to a key recommendation on care continuity in the Best Start: A Five-Year Forward Plan for Maternity and Neonatal Care in Scotland.


Play based on patient experience used to train nurses in palliative care

National Council for Palliative Care

Exclusive: Patient play used to train nurses on end of life care

The play being performed at the National Council for Palliative Care conference

A woman whose husband died from pancreatic cancer hopes a play based on the couple’s experiences will help nurses reflect on and improve the way they approach end of life care. Homeward Bound tells the story of Lesley Goodburn and her husband Seth, who died just 33 days after being diagnosed. The play has been performed live to audiences of healthcare professionals since its launch last year but has now been made into a short film to help train many more nurses and others involved in the care of dying patients.

Exclusive: Patient play used to train nurses on end of life care


Midwife union leader announces retirement this summer

Cathy Warwick

Cathy Warwick

Cathy Warwick

Professor Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, will step down from the role and retire at the end of August after over eight years in post. She has been central to positioning the RCM as an “influential and collaborative organisation”, said the union. Professor Warwick, said: “I have absolutely loved my time at the RCM.” In addition, Professor Trish Morris-Thompson, chief nurse and director of quality and clinical governance at Barchester Healthcare, has announced she is retiring at the end of February. Professor Morris-Thompson, a practicing nurse and midwife for 38 years, has held a series of high-ranking positions within both the NHS and the independent sector.


Specialist nurse beats national thrombolysis treatment average by 40 minutes

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Yorkshire nurse praised for rapid thrombolysis treatment

Jonathon Britton and Dr Tharani Thirugnana-Chandran

A nurse specialist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has administered lifesaving thrombolysis treatment in just 12 minutes, beating the national average by 40 minutes. Nurse specialist Jonathon Britton and Dr Tharani Thirugnana-Chandran, from the trust’s brain attack team, successfully gave the treatment after a stroke patient arrived in accident and emergency. Alastair Bailey, the trust’s lead nurse for stroke, said: “Achieving a door to needle time of just 12 minutes is an absolutely amazing achievement.” The national average door to needle time is 52 minutes according to statistics provided by the Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme.




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