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Round-up of last month’s main workforce and policy news affecting UK nurses

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Miss any of the news affecting the profession during April and early May 2017? Catch up with our summary of the main nursing headlines.


Tough English proficiency test delaying arrival of EU nurses

Trust nursing directors are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit from abroad, because nurses are being deterred from taking an English language test that has been criticised for being set too high or are needing several attempts to pass it – taking between eight months and a year on average.

“We have committed to looking at this standard”

NMC spokesman

As a result, they told Nursing Times they were only able to employ a small portion of the staff they originally planned to or were facing significant delays getting new staff on wards.

Meanwhile, a separate report from a staffing agency – also shared exclusively with Nursing Times – warned that the difficulty of the test was exacerbating ongoing problems recruiting enough nursing staff to fill vacancies.

Foreign passport

Foreign passport

The Nursing and Midwifery Council brought in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam for overseas staff from European Union countries last year, in order to match the same system already in place for those wanting to join the UK register from the rest of the world.

An NMC spokesman said: “As a responsible regulator that continually looks at the suitability of all the standards we set, we have committed to looking at this standard and gathering further evidence over the coming months.”


NMC finds imbalance in BME case referrals

Freedom to Speak Up

Agency staff and BME workers need ‘more support’ to raise concerns

Black nurses and midwives are more likely to be referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council than their white counterparts, research carried out for the regulator has found. Academics looking at the treatment of black and minority ethnic registrants during fitness to practise procedures also found more BME nurses and midwives were referred by their employer than would be expected, as opposed to by the public, meaning they were more likely to go on to later stages of the FtP process.


BME nurses still ‘seriously under-represented’ in senior posts

nurse hand child BME2

Black and minority ethnic nursing and midwifery staff remain “seriously under-represented” at a senior NHS level in England, despite some recent progress. The second annual report on the Workforce Race Equality Standard found BME candidates were generally less likely to be appointed by the NHS than white applicants, while the proportion on trust boards failed to reflect the size of the workforce as a whole. The London NHS region had the worst performance against the standard, despite having the largest BME workforce.


NHS England creates two new nurse posts

Heather Caudle

Heather Caudle

Heather Caudle

NHS England has appointed two senior nurses to newly-created roles with briefs covering the transformation and improvement of the nursing profession. The director of nursing for transformation will be Paul Vaughan, currently the Royal College of Nursing’s West Midlands regional director, and Heather Caudle, chief nurse at Ashford and St Peter’s Foundation Trust, will become director of nursing for improvement.


Senior nurses to lead work on safety checks for NHS staffing plans

02 e24008

02 e24008

Two nursing directors have been asked by NHS Improvement to lead work on developing new safeguards to protect care quality when trusts make significant changes to their workforce. Helen Blanchard, from Royal United Hospitals Bath Foundation Trust, and Suzanne Banks, from Sherwood Forest Foundation Trust, will lead work due to be completed by the summer.


RCN starts consultation exercise on possible strike vote

Royal College of Nursing

Follow the parliament debate on nurse pay live

RCN chief executive Janet Davies, RCN president Cecilia Anim and Lorrae Allford, vice chair of council

The Royal College of Nursing began asking 270,000 nurses and care assistants across the UK for their views on whether to go on strike or take other forms of action, such as working to rule, over pay. Results from the online vote, which closed on 7 May, will be announced at the RCN’s annual congress in Liverpool this month. A separate formal ballot would be required by law ahead of any industrial action. It follows the recent announcement of another 1% pay rise for NHS staff.


Chronic nurse shortage puts patients ‘at risk’


The NHS continues to suffer from “chronic understaffing”, according to a snapshot survey of nurses across the UK by Unison. Almost two-thirds of nurses who responded said wards were so understaffed that nurses could not ensure safe, dignified and compassionate care. Findings from the survey were revealed at the union’s health conference in Liverpool. At the same event, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said NHS staff were “right to feel angry” over yet another 1% pay rise.


Time to support mental health nurses


Health visitor named ‘nurse of year’ by WellChild charity

Prince Harry at the Wellchild Awards

The value of mental health nurses in supporting and listening to patients should be acknowledged more widely, according to the chief executive of the Foundation of Nursing Studies. Nurses probably have the most contact time with patients, compared to other health professionals, said Dr Theresa Shaw in a blog. She used recent media attention on mental health – both Prince William and Prince Harry having spoken out about the death of their mother – to highlight the role of its nursing staff.


Scotland launches review of barriers to career in nursing

CNO for Scotland

Professor Fiona McQueen appointed CNO for Scotland

Professor Fiona McQueen

The Scottish government has launched a consultation on plans to introduce nursing and midwifery safe staffing legislation, which were first announced this time last year by Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon. In addition, the current barriers to entering the nursing and midwifery professions in Scotland are to be investigated as part of a review commissioned by the country’s chief nursing officer Fiona McQueen. She said: “The final report will identify best practice and current innovations which maximise access across the education and employment sectors. It will also identify current obstacles to nursing and midwifery careers.”


Take-up of fee-paying degree surges

University of Sunderland

University more than quadruples fee-paying course places

Sunderland school of nursing students

A nursing degree course launched last year where students pay their own tuition fees is to more than quadruple in size in 2017, due to demand from local trusts. A total of 23 students started on the adult nursing programme at Sunderland University when it launched in 2016, but 130 began the course last month. Trainees pay the annual £9,000 tuition fees.


Winners at the 2017 Student Nursing Times Awards revealed

Student Nursing Times Awards 2017

Winners at the 2017 Student Nursing Times Awards revealed

Student nurses from Stirling, London, Nottingham and Birmingham were among those celebrated as the best in the country in their category at the 2017 Student Nursing Times Awards. Sophie Cameron, from the University of Stirling, was named Student Nurse of the Year in the adult category at a ceremony yesterday at the London Hilton on Park Lane. Meanwhile, Anwar Tabali, who is studying at London South Bank University, was named top student in the children’s nursing category. In addition, the award for Student Nurse of the Year for learning disabilities went to Nottingham University’s Abigail Baxter, and the one for mental health was won by Suzanne Noble from the University of Birmingham.


Nursing staff around the world prepare for nurses’ day 2017

Royal College of Nursing

Global development and heroes themes of 2017 nurses’ day

RCN branding for IND 2017

International Nurses Day will be celebrated around the world on 12 May, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. The official theme chosen by the International Council of Nurses is on how nursing can help achieve the United Nations’ 17 goals on global sustainable development. Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing’s theme is that nurses are “heroes” and is calling on members to tell them about the person who inspired you to enter the profession.


Danish nurses break rules to grant patient’s final wish

Aarhus University Hospital

Danish nurses break rules to give patient final wish

Carsten Flemming Hansen sleeping on the hospital balcony

A request by nurses at a Danish hospital to break the rules and allow a terminally ill patient to have a glass of wine and a cigarette became a social media sensation last month. Aarhus University Hospital revealed the decision to grant Carsten Flemming Hansen, 75, his final wish on Facebook. It noted that nurses and the patient’s family had agreed the move and he was wheeled out onto a balcony where he could “enjoy the cigarette, the cool glass and a beautiful sunset” with his family. “It was a very cosy and relaxed atmosphere,” said nurse Rikke Kvist, who added that the positive reaction on Facebook confirmed to her that she had done the “right thing”.

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