The chief nursing officer for England has acknowledged that replacing student nurse bursaries with a system of loans represents a potential risk as well as a possible benefit for the nursing workforce.
Jane Cummings will touch on the issue in a speech today in which she will highlight the “many” changes currently affecting the nursing workforce, including the planned introduction of the nursing associate role and pressure on services to be more efficient while coping with increased demand.
“We need to be mindful of the potential risks as well as the potential benefits”
Professor Cummings will use her address to an NHS England innovation conference in Manchester to call on nurses and midwives to “help make the case for the change they want to see”.
Setting out the challenges and opportunities facing the profession, the CNO will urge nursing and midwifery staff to engage in a debate about the shape of the workforce for the future.
Speaking at the Health and Care Innovation Expo 2016, she will say: “The world is changing and as a profession we need to respond in the right way, by taking responsibility and the lead to ensure we can meet the challenges we face.
“We should make a case for the change we want to see”
She will add: “Money is tight, so we need to find ways of being more efficient while improving services. This is tough, but as the largest group of healthcare professionals we should take the lead.
“It is those on the frontline who know where those efficiencies are, how to reduce wasted time, share and adopt good practice and work with the public to explain and agree complex changes,” she will say. “We should make a case for the change we want to see.”
The CNO will also tell delegates the current model of NHS care “is in many ways outdated”, and “every emergency department nurse, community or practice nurse in the country will tell you that”.
“I am determined to ensure our professions have a seat at the table as we tackle the challenges ahead,” she will say. “The nursing and midwifery professions have a vital role to help shape an NHS and care system for the future and their voices must be heard.
“The sheer size and reach of the [nursing] workforce gives us huge scope to shape and manage future changes,” she will add.
The speech is significant in that it will also represent the first time the CNO has directly tackled the forthcoming removal of the bursary or the introduction of nursing associates in a major speech.
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She will say: “Over the last year there have been many announcements on changes to the way we work – revalidation, a new nursing support role, changes to the bursary system and others.
“There is so much happening it can be difficult for people to see how it all fits together and why, but we need to go beyond the immediate headlines and see the big picture,” the CNO will say.
Bursary removal is ‘uncharted territory’, says CNO
“Although the number of nurses in the NHS has been steadily increasing, it is clear that further work needs to be done, that demand continues to grow, there are challenges recruiting and retaining staff in some areas and that there are no simple answers,” she will say.
“Questions have been asked about the impact the planned changes to the bursary system may have – this is uncharted territory and we need to be mindful of the potential risks as well as the potential benefits the removal of the cap on training places could bring,” she will tell delegates.
The CNO will also use the speech to prioritise the need to improve opportunities for nurses in senior NHS roles, noting the “clear target” to achieve gender-balanced trust boards by 2020.
“There are increasing opportunities for all nurses and midwives to progress in leadership roles, but we need to nurture talent early to support our next generation of leaders,” she will say.
“Developing leaders at all levels is one of my priorities as CNO – the potential in our workforce to manage the challenges of today and shape the future should not be underestimated,” she will add.
In May, the CNO launched a new nursing framework, Leading Change, Adding Value, as a successor to the previous national nursing strategy Compassion in Practice.
The framework encouraged all nursing and midwifery staff to take a leading role in reducing unwarranted variation in the prevention of ill-health and the quality and efficiency of care.
The theme of the 2016 Health and Care Innovation Expo is innovation and technology in the heath sector, and its role in the delivery of the Five Year Forward View, NHS England’s five-year plan for the health service.