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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 March and early April 2017? Catch up with our summary of the main nursing headlines.


CNO announces ‘nurse first’ scheme for graduates

A new fast track “nurse first” programme designed to attract graduates in other subject areas into nursing has been announced by the chief nursing officer for England.

“Nursing has always greatly benefited from the varied backgrounds and life experience of its staff”

Jane Cummings

The new scheme, inspired by the Teach First programme, is intended to create a postgraduate programme that will fast-track “high achievers” into registered graduate nursing positions.

The move forms part of a range of initiatives to try and boost nurse numbers set out in a new plan from NHS England. The NHS Five Year Forward View Next Steps, published on 31 March, stated an overall ambition to increase the number of nurses in the NHS by 2020.

As well as the fast-track scheme, there will be an initiative to boost the public profile of nursing and a plan to encourage more nurses to work in primary care settings, including in advanced roles. In addition, there will be an expansion in nurse training places commissioned, an initiative to improve staff retention and further efforts to encourage former nurses to return to practice.


NHS England said the fast-track trainees would help address workforce capacity and support the development of future nurse leaders in key areas, targeting mental health and learning disabilities in the first instance.

Professor Jane Cummings said: “As a profession, nursing has always greatly benefited from the varied backgrounds and life experience of its staff. It’s vital we continue to attract the best and brightest graduates, offering additional entry routes and career opportunities, so that we can continue to deliver specialist, high quality care to all.”


NHS Improvement ‘pauses’ start of unpopular new agency rule

NHS Improvement has suspended the introduction of its new rule preventing permanent NHS staff from doing agency shifts at other health service providers, after campaigning by nurses.

Jim Mackey

Jim Mackey

The regulator has written to trusts telling them it is “pausing until further notice” the start of the controversial rule, in order to “engage with the sector”.

As exclusively revealed by Nursing Times, interim findings from a snapshot survey of nurses revealed anger, frustration and even “despair” among those likely to be affected by the ban on agency shifts. The Royal College of Nursing also wrote to the government calling on it to retract the new rule.

Under its original plans, NHS Improvement had told trusts that from 1 April they should not employ any agency workers who hold substantive roles at other NHS employers. It would have meant that permanent staff wanting extra shifts would have to be employed through the trust’s bank instead.

But letters were sent on 31 March to trust chief executives and directors of nursing, instructing them to hold back from implementing the policy.

In the letter, NHS Improvement chief executive Jim Mackey (pictured) said: “To be clear, this new rule will not start from the 1st of April and your normal processes can remain in place. We will review the timeline and system preparedness for any further changes to this policy and will engage with the system and staff as appropriate.”

The move was welcomed by the RCN and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, which represents staffing agencies.


‘Bitter blow’ to nurses as NHS 1% pay rise in England confirmed

Money cash finance

Money cash finance

NHS nurses across the UK should receive a 1% pay increase in 2017-18, according to the independent body that reviews health service salaries. The NHS Pay Review Body said all staff on Agenda for Change contracts should see their wages uplifted by 1% amount from 1 April. The recommendation was accepted by the governments in England, Wales and Scotland. A decision in Northern Ireland has been delayed by the current political upheaval there.


Health and social care workforce ‘must be Brexit priority’


A group of 34 key social care and health organisations have called on ministers to “safeguard the UK’s ability” to recruit and retain staff with the skills to deliver high quality care during and after Brexit. The Cavendish Coalition responded to the triggering of Article 50 by setting out “priority issues”, including the permanent right to remain for European Economic Area nationals working in health and social care and a future immigration system that supports the sector.


CNO sets out five main challenges, lessons and achievements

NHS England

CNO: EU nurses will need support during Brexit uncertainty

The chief nursing officer for England Professor Jane Cummings held her annual summit for senior nurses in Birmingham, where she out five main challenges for the profession over the next five years – the need to develop nursing in community and primary care settings to cope with the demands of an ageing population, boosting the image of nursing as a profession, making sure technology aided clinical practice and tackling the shortages in both staffing and resources more generally.



A group of independent midwives have filed a legal challenge against the Nursing and Midwifery Council in a dispute over professional indemnity that is preventing them from attending births. Legal proceedings were served by Independent Midwives UK on 17 March. Its application for a judicial review follows an NMC decision that IMUK, which has around 80 members, was using an inappropriate indemnity scheme with inadequate funds to settle any major clinical negligence.


UK universities among top ranked places to study nursing

King's College London

Leading academic joins London nursing school

Three UK universities have been ranked in the top 10 of the best places around the world to study nursing. In the 2016 QS World University Rankings for nursing, King’s College London is ranked at number three, the University of Manchester at number four, and Southampton University at 10. The two top ranked universities, both in the US, are Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins.


Nurse vacancies converted into associate posts at acute trust

East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust

Hospital trust told to up game on children’s safety

A trust is to remove more than 20 nurse vacancies and introduce the same number of nursing associates, but insisted the move is not substitution. East and North Hertfordshire Trust said because the band 5 nurse posts were vacant, the introduction of nursing associates in their place would in fact be positive. The trust is part of a pilot site for the new role designed to act as a bridge between healthcare assistants and registered nurses.


Life and legacy of first state registered nurse celebrated

Ethel Bedford Fenwick

Life and legacy of first state registered nurse celebrated

The life, work and legacy of the woman who successfully campaigned to become the UK’s first state registered nurse was celebrated in a special church service on 12 March. Ethel Bedford Fenwick campaigned for over 30 years, from 1887 to 1919, for the establishment of a register for nurses. Last month marked the 70th anniversary of her death in March 1947, having worked all her life for the recognition and regulation of nurses.


All aboard: airborne nurses share eye-care knowledge


All aboard: airborne nurses share eye-care knowledge

Leonardo Mercado (pictured above) is a staff nurse aboard the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital – an MD-10 cargo plane that has been converted into an ophthalmic hospital and teaching facility. The aircraft, which visited Standsted Airport last month, takes a mix of permanent staff and volunteers to developing counties where they can pass on their skills to local clinicians, while providing sight-saving surgery to patients.

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