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Weekly news summary: 14 January 2017

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Nursing practice of the future is set to be raised to a higher level under new training standards being developed by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the regulator’s head of education has said in an exclusive interview.

Dr Geraldine Walters told Nursing Times the changes being considered for pre-registration university programmes included students being assessed on their mentoring ability, placement hours being reduced, and completion of a prescribing qualification. She also emphasised the need for nurses to be trained to lead multi-disciplinary teams in the future.

While acknowledging potential difficulties in leading care in an increasingly complex environment, she said: “We think nurses can do this, and our experience suggests that many are ready for the challenge.”

A Nursing Times investigation into the impact of removing student nurse bursaries in England has revealed university plans to potentially increase training places are being held back by a lack of clinical placements. Following previous reports of a 20% drop in applications, universities also echoed prior warnings that some parts of the country, and certain courses – such as learning disability nursing - may struggle to recruit enough trainees.

Changes to legislation that will speed up fitness to practise activities are expected to save the Nursing and Midwifery Council £60m in the next decade, but the regulator has indicated this will not result in lower registrant fees. Instead, in the government’s response to its consultation on the law changes, it was suggested the NMC would use the extra cash for revalidation, education and setting standards.

The consultation also covered reforms to midwifery regulation. A total of 84% of the 1,424 respondents taking part disagreed with the removal of statutory supervision for midwives, while 91% said they did not want the legal requirement for the NMC to have a midwifery committee to be removed. Despite the objections, the Department of Health said it would press ahead with all proposed nursing and midwifery regulation reforms.

Healthcare assistants could in the future could be blacklisted under a new system being considered by the Department of Health to deal with the lack of regulation for support staff. Ministers are considering using prohibition orders against unregulated staff who are found to present a risk to patient safety, which would see the creation of registers of staff who are no longer allowed to work in the NHS.

The Royal College of Nursing has claimed nurses across the UK are working in some of the worst conditions they have ever seen – with some reporting patients waiting 23 hours in hospital corridors, and others being discharged before they are well enough. The warning adds to the national outcry against healthcare services struggling to cope under immense pressures this winter. The RCN called for student nurse bursaries to be reinstated and an end to pay restraint for NHS staff.

Police are investigating whether saline bags at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust have been tampered with. The organisation said it did not believe any patients had been adversely affected and that security measures had been increased.

Meanwhile, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has called for all patients with learning disabilities to receive an annual mental health check. NICE referred to data showing that only half of learning disability patients received a health check in 2011-12, and noted that thousands had undiagnosed mental health problems.

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