- Petition started against plans to close advisory unit
- MP questions Department of Health’s decision
- RCN chief executive writes letter to Jeremy Hunt
Opposition is mounting to government plans to scrap the nursing and midwifery advisory unit at the Department of Health.
An influential MP has quizzed the government on the plans and the Royal College of Nursing’s chief executive has written to the health secretary about them in the wake of concerns from its members.
A petition has also been set up on the parliamentary website in protest which has already received support from over 1,000 people.
As previously reported by Nursing Times, the decision to scrap the Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Policy Unit forms part of wider cost-cutting measures. But nursing leaders have expressed concern that it will mean nursing no longer has a voice at the highest level of policy-making.
- Department of Health to scrap nursing advisory unit
- Loss of DH nursing advisory unit strongly criticised
- Exclusive: DH jobs threat stokes fear of fall in nurse influence
Dr Sarah Wollaston, the former GP who chairs the Commons’ health select committee, has now submitted a series of written questions to the DH on the controversial plans.
Dr Sarah Wollaston
She asked 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 wanted to know “what mechanisms he plans to put in place to ensure ministers receive impartial nursing 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, 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 other key international policy gatherings.
At the RCN’s annual congress last week, 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 RCN president Cecila Amin, criticised the planned cuts.
Edward Freshwater, a nurse from the RCN’s mental health forum, said: “It has become clear our government intends to sideline the views of nurses with the closure of the policy unit.”
RCN Congress 2016
In the wake of the debate, RCN chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies told delegates that she had subsequently written to the health secretary about the plans. Nursing Times understands that she is yet to receive a reply.
However, the DH 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”, said a DH spokeswoman.