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White paper ‘underestimates nurses’


Nurses’ lack of visibility in the health white paper will create “real problems”, Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter has predicted.

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Speaking to Nursing Times just before submitting the RCN’s official response to the white paper, Mr Carter said it “underestimates” the contribution of nurses to the NHS.

He said: “The visibility of nurses in this white paper is missing… We acknowledge there’s a whole mixed economy of skills but the nurse contribution is essential.

“We’d predict if we don’t have that level of involvement we will begin to get real problems.”

There appears to be a “lack of understanding” that the proposals will not work without the backing of nurse leaders, Mr Carter added. This was because nursing directors are in a strong position to influence the workforce as a whole and can help to obtain consensus on difficult decisions such as hospital reconfigurations.

The RCN’s response also questions the speed at which the reforms are due to be implemented and the lack of “road testing” of changes such as GP commissioning.

The ambitious pace of the programme is also challenged in Unison’s white paper response, which says it “will produce instability for the NHS which could affect the quality of services and patients’ ability to access them”.

The response highlights Nursing Times’ investigation into practice nurse training, warning that the government’s plans could reduce training opportunities and worsen working conditions.

Proposals to transfer education commissioning to local providers are “deeply worrying”, while the staffing reductions “envisaged in the white paper” could “undermine” the fight against healthcare associated infections, it says.

It also expresses concern at signals the private sector will play a far bigger role in the NHS.

The British Medical Association has also warned about the impact of greater involvement of the private sector in its formal response.

In a letter to health secretary Andrew Lansley, former health secretary Andy Burnham last week emphasised “the fierce criticism that is emerging from professional bodies” regarding the white paper.

The letter said: “Your plans are completely unacceptable to us and if you proceed on the basis you have set out, we will launch a major campaign in every community.

“However, if you are prepared to listen, we will step back from that and engage constructively in the debate over the future of the NHS.”

Unison will set out its case for a judicial review against the white paper in court next Thursday.

Read more

Unite launches anti-white paper campaign 


Readers' comments (6)

  • I read the above with interest. I personally am not surprised that once again the opinion of nurses (a huge professional body) have not been sought or taken into consideration. Working as I do in NHS Scotland, I frequently see government papers and even local policies coming out without any mention of nursing staff who may be on the receiving end of any changing policies.
    As a union, it is vital that the RCN take a stand as 'the nurses voice' and as professionals we have an obligation to speak out for the sake of not only ourselves but on behalf of 'the silent majority' our patients in our workplaces.
    Having said that, I shall be interested to hear if the Government do actually sit up and take notice of what the RCN is saying. I pray they will!

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  • Yes, it is rather annoying that politicans keep stating that their proposals will put 'clinicians' in the driving seat when they really mean to put 'GPs in the driving seat. The White Paper does not acknowledge the role and contribution of nurses. It was not too long ago that politicians were paying tribute to nurses for delivering many of the NHS reforms - or, was this simply rhetoric?

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  • Exactly Kelvin! I completely agree! It is about time those in charge realise that clinician does not just mean 'GP'!!!

    There was a similar debate to this on the thread about the perception of Nurses, and the same things were said. Nurses -despite doing the bulk of the work/treatment, making the bulk of the patient care decisions and making up the bulk of the workforce - are simply not respected or thought of as being important enough to make important decisions. It is about time that changed!

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  • And why are we thought of like that?

    Because we are soft.
    Because we are female dominated.
    Because we aren't regarded as true professionals.
    Because our main union the RCN is basically a quango and nothing more.

    So what do we do?

    Toughen up....a change of attitude and culture is needed within nursing.

    Nurses always strive to put the patient first. By bending over backwards for all and sundry we actually end up putting the patient's last! Think staffs...

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  • It's all very well Peter Carter speaking to the Nursing Times - we all ready know this. Why isn't Peter Carter speaking to the The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail or phoning the BBC. Why are they not, as usual, making a bigger stand?

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  • Anonymous | 7-Oct-2010 9:12 am
    I agree but listen to what he's saying as well....that nurses support the changes just not at this pace!! I certainly don't support these changes for many reasons. It doesn't put patients or staff first. contradicts the code but not our responsibility. It's only our responsibility to voice objection and warning.

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