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Weekly news summary: 19 November 2016

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Nursing associates continue to dominate the news this week as the final version of the training curriculum for the role was published.

However, contrary to a leaked draft version, which was heavily criticised, the document does not state they will be taught to administer controlled drugs. However, they will be able to calculate drug doses under delegation, and will be able to give medication “within the confines of local employer policies”. Meanwhile, Health Education England said it would meet with stakeholders in the new year to produce guidance on the possibility of nursing associates giving controlled drugs.

Meanwhile, the body that was asked by the government to assess whether nursing associates should be regulated has said it did not currently have enough information about the scope of the role to make a decision – but suggested the role should be registered on an interim basis. The Professional Standards Authority, which oversees the Nursing and Midwifery Council and other regulators, said in its interim report, published last week, that it could provide a full assessment once the role had begun testing at pilot sites next year.

NHS Improvement’s most senior nurse has said she will intervene to back directors of nursing where they are feeling pressured to make decisions about staffing that goes against the evidence available to them. Dr Ruth May, the regulator’s executive director of nursing, is leading new work on safe staffing guidance, after the previous NICE programme was halted by NHS England. She said the new guidance would be based on the latest evidence and research.

Researchers have urged caution over policies that dilute nurses within the skill mix of teams after a major European study found replacing qualified nurses with nursing assistants was linked to an increased risk of patients dying. The study – carried out by a team including nursing workforce experts from King’s College London and Southampton University – found a higher proportion of qualified nurses was associated with a significantly lower risk of death, higher levels of patient satisfaction and fewer reported incidents of poor quality care such as pressure ulcers, falls and urinary infections.

Health visitors and school nurses have spoken out over the threats to jobs from service redesigns, as a result of cuts to local council public health budgets by the government. At the Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association annual conference they outlined their “crucial” role in prevention to shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth, who was speaking at the event. Responding, he said the community sector was “vital to decreasing demands on the NHS” and described job cuts as a “false economy”.

In the same week, the union warned that plans to “axe up to 60” health visitors in part of the East Midlands would “hit deprived families”. The proposals will see 38 whole-time equivalent health visitor posts removed, out of 138, at Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Finally, a disciplinary hearing began last week against a nurse accused of misconduct after the temperature of Pauline Cafferkey was wrongly recorded shortly before she was diagnosed with ebola. At a fitness to practise hearing in London nurse Donna Wood was accused of hiding Ms Cafferkey’s temperature from officials at a screening area in the London’s Heathrow Airport when the pair returned from volunteering in Sierra Leone at the end of 2014. During the hearing it was revealed that a volunteer doctor – who was with the two nurses when Ms Cafferkey’s high temperature was recorded as being below the threshold for further assessment – will also go before a tribunal in a related case next year.

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