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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 June 2018? Catch up with our summary of the main nursing headlines.


Inquiry: nurses who raised concerns about painkiller overuse were ignored

gosport war memorial hospital

gosport war memorial hospital

Gosport War Memorial Hospital

Concerns raised by nurses more than 25 years ago about excessive use of powerful painkilling drugs at Gosport War Memorial Hospital were ignored resulting in lives being needlessly cut short, according to the public inquiry into more than 800 deaths at the hospital.

A long-awaited report published in June highlighted the “bravery” of the whistleblowers concerned. It found nursing staff were the first to raise the alarm about the inappropriate prescribing and administration of opioid painkillers, but their concerns were dismissed.

A staff nurse was one of the first to express concern in 1991, with others going on to raise further worries. Yet records of meetings, conversations and correspondence show their concerns were largely ignored.

However, it also showed other nurses were involved in giving the drugs over many years, despite the obvious link to deaths and describes numerous failings in overall nursing care. Nursing staff “had a responsibility to intervene and challenge the prevailing practice on the wards,” said the report.

“There was an institutionalised regime of prescribing and administering ‘dangerous doses’”

Inquiry report

In all the Gosport Independent Panel concluded that the lives of more than 450 people had been shortened due to a reckless prescribing regime that showed a “disregard for human life”.

A further 200 patients were likely to have suffered the same fate in the period from 1989 to 2000, amid a “culture of shortening the lives of a large number of patients”, said the panel.

“There was an institutionalised regime of prescribing and administering ‘dangerous doses’ of a hazardous combination of medication not clinically indicated or justified with patients and relatives powerless in their relationship with professional staff,” said their report.


Majority of nursing union members vote to accept NHS pay deal

ballot box

ballot box

It was revealed last month that members of the major health unions had voted to accept the NHS pay deal offered in England, which is worth 6.5% over three years. The Royal College of Nursing said 77% of its members backed the pay offer, while 84% of Unison members voted in support, as did 79% of Unite members and 85.7% of Royal College of Midwives members. The GMB voted against.


Scottish NHS staff offered 9% pay rise over next three years



NHS nursing and midwifery staff in Scotland have been offered a minimum of a 9% pay rise over the next three years, under latest proposals. Subject to agreement by unions, Scottish staff currently earning up to £80,000 will receive a minimum cumulative uplift of 9% over the period covering 2018-19 to 2020-21. The deal will now be consulted on between 2 July and 15 August.


Prime minister commits to 10-year plan for the NHS

Conservative Party

Nursing unions respond to plans for snap general election

Theresa May

More opportunities for flexible working and career development will be among key measures to feature in a new 10‐year plan for the NHS that will “reset the deal between the NHS and its staff”, according to prime minister Theresa May. She also outlined plans to boost funding for the NHS with an average 3.4% annual rise in each of the next five years from 2019-20 to 2023-24.


‘Totally illogical’ not to invest in public health nurses as well as NHS

Labour Party

Warning over ‘huge’ variation in health visitor checks

Health visitor talking to family

Nursing groups have urged the government not to forget about key health and care services, such as health visiting and sexual health, which will not benefit from last month’s announcement of an NHS funding boost. While extra funding for the NHS was welcomed, the Institute of Health Visiting said it was “totally illogical” not to also invest in services that can prevent ill health in the first place.


Non-EU overseas nurses to be exempt from skilled migration cap

Foreign passport

Foreign passport

More nurses and doctors from outside the European Union will be able to work in the NHS, after a government decision to exclude them from the cap on skilled workers. There will be no restriction on the numbers of doctors and nurses who can be employed through the tier 2 visa route under new immigration rules laid before parliament. The tier 2 visa route has had an annual cap of 20,700 since 2011.


CQC: Poor providers of urgent primary care not effectively using nurses

Steve Field

Steve Field

Steve Field

Urgent primary care providers with poor quality ratings are not using nurses in the most effective way, according to the Care Quality Commission. It found nurses and other staff were often being asked to fill in gaps in the GP rota and work outside their competencies at urgent primary care services rated as inadequate or requiring improvement.


Dutch community nursing model could take pressure off district nurses

rural community district nurse

rural community district nurse health visitor

Source: Samuel Ivin

A nurse‐led model of community care first developed in the Netherlands has proved hugely popular with both patients and staff in London and could help solve some of the current problems in district nursing, according to researchers. Their study explored whether the Buurtzorg model of neighbourhood nursing, which is being tested in various parts of the UK, could help tackle the “workforce crisis” in district nursing.


Darzi review: Automating some tasks could free up nurses’ time

Ara Darzi

Ara Darzi

Ara Darzi

Automated triage and “bedside robots” are among technological innovations that could help address staffing shortages and free up nurses to spend more time with patients, according to a major review commissioned by the Institute for Public Policy Research and written by Lord Ara Darzi. The former health minister and surgeon set out a bold vision for the future, including moving to free nursing and personal care at home and radical changes to the way services are structured.


Regulator told to improve performance on fitness to practise


The Nursing and Midwifery Council has continued to meet nearly all of its core standards but there are still concerns over the way it handles some aspects of fitness to practise cases, particularly in the way it supports complainants. The latest annual performance review of the NMC found it had achieved 23 out of 24 key standards for good regulation.


Exclusive: Expert midwife attacks NMC in explosive resignation letter



A leading midwife who was employed by the Nursing and Midwifery Council to advise on midwifery education claims she was “silenced” when she tried to talk about the everyday challenges of maternity care and that midwives are basically seen as “a nuisance” by the regulator. In an explosive resignation letter, Dr Helen Shallow, a consultant midwife and former head of midwifery, also accused the NMC of “paying lip service” to a consultation on education standards for midwives.


New memorial dedicated to nurses of First and Second World Wars

Nursing Memorial Appeal

Nursing memorial

Source: Richard Pursehouse

Margaret Bearley, HRH The Countess of Wessex, Ethel Lote and Major James Salt

A memorial was unveiled on 4 June at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire to commemorate the service of nurses during the First and Second World Wars. Composed of two bronze hands holding up a sandstone globe, it carries the names of the nearly 1,300 professional nurses and members of Voluntary Aid Detachments who died during war service or as a result of it.


Exclusive: Birmingham school nurse jobs at risk from cuts

Birmingham city hall

Birmingham city hall

Birmingham City Hall

Scores of school nurses in Birmingham could be facing redundancy amid plans to cut funding by virtually half and scrap the school nursing service, Nursing Times has revealed. The decision to decommission the service comes after the city council agreed to slash funding by £2m – almost half the current £4.2m budget for the School Health Advisory Service.


New NHS standards aim to improve learning disabilities care

Learning disabilities

Learning disability

Man with Down’s syndrome making a cake

Trusts must have plans to tackle a shortage of staff specialising in supporting people with learning difficulties, the NHS regulator for England has said. The recommendation is one of four new standards issued by NHS Improvement to help trusts measure the standard of care they provide to people with learning disabilities.


Nurses honoured at NHS Windrush awards for BME workers

Empire Windrush

Empire Windrush

Empire Windrush

Six nurses have been honoured at a national awards event for NHS staff from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. The NHS Windrush 70 Awards, held on 12 June, marked both the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the liner Empire Windrush at Tilbury in 1948 and also the upcoming 70th birthday of the NHS. Over 11,000 members of the public, patients and staff nominated NHS employees for the awards, which were organised by NHS England.


Week long pyjama ‘party’ comes to close for Hillingdon nurses

Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

#EndPJparalysis Challenge

Ward staff at Hillingdon Hospital during their pyjama week

Nursing staff at Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in London, including those on Pagett Ward (pictured), donned their nightwear for a week last month to draw attention to the issue of “pyjama paralysis” in older patients. The initiative, held from 11 to 15 June, formed part of the 70 Day #EndPJparalysis Challenge, a national campaign to get older patients up, dressed in their own clothes, and moving to boost their recovery.


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