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


NHS nurse pay set to rise by 6.5% over three years under new deal


Starting gun fired on nurse pay and contract change talks

NHS staff on the Agenda for Change contract in England are being offered an average 6.5% pay rise over three years, with many staff set to receive more under proposals revealed in March.

“Everyone’s wages will go further, and the lowest paid would get a significant income boost”

Sara Gorton

Under the three-year deal agreed by unions and employers, all but the very highest paid staff would get 3% in April 2018, 1.7% and a 1.1% lump sum in 2019, and 1.7% in 2020.

According to negotiators, half of nurses will receive significantly more than 6.5% and the starting salary of a nurse will rise from £22,128 to £24,907.

If accepted by members, the deal would also result in an end to band overlaps, with band 1 scrapped altogether by April 2021.

Other measures include extending shared parental leave rights to all staff, and a “commitment” from employers and unions to reduce sickness absence through a “better shared focus on staff health and wellbeing”.


Healthcare assistants used as ‘nurses on the cheap’

Sara Gorton

Unison head of health and lead pay negotiator for the NHS unions Sara Gorton said: “Seven years of pay freezes and wage increases well below the cost of living have meant significant financial hardship for health staff and their families.

“If health workers accept the offer, everyone’s wages will go further, and the lowest paid would get a significant income boost,” she said.

The Treasury has committed to fully fund the deal, which was officially revealed on 21 March, with £4.2bn extra for the NHS.

Health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “NHS staff have never worked harder and this deal is recognition of that.”


England’s CNO announces bid to recruit and retain more nurses

Chief nursing officer

Jane Cummings

Jane Cummings

The chief nursing officer for England has announced a “major” new recruitment and retention campaign along with ambitions to legally protect the job title nurse. Professor Jane Cummings said there was a “need to test different interventions” on staff retention. Other measures unveiled by the CNO at her annual summit last month included 165 new “ambassadors” to boost the image of nursing and midwifery.


Hunt cites bursary and Brexit as reasons for ‘nursing workforce concern’

Health and social care secretary

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt

Health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt has acknowledged that the NHS workforce is his “biggest worry”, with the fall in the number of nursing staff of particular concern. Speaking at the CNO summit, he cited scrapping the student bursary and uncertainty surrounding Brexit as the “two reasons” driving the reduction in the nurse workforce.


Nurse leaders appeal for enough CPD funds and pay rises to aid retention

NHS Improvement

Nurse staffing shortage is ‘top priority’ for regulator

Source: Kate Stanworth

Senior nurses have stressed the need for more investment in continuing professional development to help retain nurses. Baroness Mary Watkins and NHS Improvement executive director of nursing Ruth May both highlighted a current lack of investment in nurse CPD at the annual CNO summit.


‘Historic decision’ by NMC brings in raft of nurse education changes

A raft of changes to pre-registration nurse education, student assessment and prescribing have been approved, following a “historic decision” by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. At an NMC council meeting last month, the regulator signed off changes that will see all nurses in the future trained in the same set of procedures and communication skills regardless of their field of practice.


Graduate nurses boost post-surgical outcomes for dementia

Being admitted to hospital can be overwhelming for patients with dementia

Being admitted to hospital can be overwhelming for patients with dementia

Having more hospital nurses educated to degree level providing treatment is linked to better outcomes in surgical patients and especially those with dementia, according to US researchers. Each 10% increase in the proportion of graduate nurses at a hospital was associated with 4% lower odds of death for individuals without Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias, but 10% lower odds of death for those with such conditions.


RCN launches drive for nurses to take rest, drink and meal breaks

Cup of water

Sips of iced water in an attempt to revitalise the swallowing reflex

The Royal College of Nursing has launched a new “3Rs” campaign to encourage nursing staff to “rest, rehydrate, refuel” during shifts. It has published a set of resources, including posters and advice with the aim of making staff think about the consequences of not looking after themselves on shift.


Hunt promises more midwives and better continuity of care



An extra 3,000 midwives will be trained over the next four years and a voluntary register set up for support staff, under a range of maternity care measures announced by the government. It said the boost would represent the “largest ever increase in NHS midwives and maternity support staff”.


Prince of Wales pays ‘special tribute’ to nursing profession


Prince of Wales pays ‘special tribute’ to nursing profession

Buckingham Palace

The Prince of Wales has thanked frontline nurses for their work on behalf of the nation at a special reception at Buckingham Palace attended by over 300 members of the profession. He told nurses at the event on 14 March that he was aware of the “many pressures” facing the profession.


Loan error means students ‘will not receive further payments this year’



More than a hundred student nurses have been told they will not receive any further loan instalments for their living costs this academic year, following an error by the Student Loans Company. It decided not to provide further instalments after it had mistakenly overpaid the students.


job interview tie

job interview tie

Former whistleblowers who raised concerns in the public interest will gain legal protection from discrimination if they want another job in the NHS, under draft regulations. The move was a key recommendation in Sir Robert Francis’ Freedom to Speak Up Review, which found a number of people had struggled to find NHS employment after raising safety concerns.


Hollywood film inspires new scheme to retain newly qualified nurses

Barking, Havering and Redbridge Hospitals NHS Trust

Call to boost midwife training in vital foetal monitoring

Queen’s Hospital in Romford

Experienced nurses nearing retirement are being employed full-time to help mentor newly qualifieds, under an initiative to improve retention at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust. The “senior intern” scheme was the brainchild of trust chief nurse Kathryn Halford.


Staff survey shows rise in stress levels, staffing concerns and attacks

Ohio State University

Depression in nurses ‘increases likelihood of making errors’

Nurses simply cannot take any more pressure, warned health leaders and unions in the wake of results from the 2017 staff survey. It showed violence against staff in England had reached a five-year high, while stress levels and concerns about staffing increased, as did dissatisfaction about pay.


Care home staff say neglect is ‘common’ but driven by pressure


The largest-ever survey of care home staff in England has indicated that neglectful behaviours are widespread and appear to be driven by workload pressures and burn out. Making a resident wait for care, avoiding residents with challenging behaviour and giving them insufficient time for food were found in the study to be the most common forms of neglect.


UK universities remain among top for global nursing courses


The University of Manchester and King’s College London have appeared in the top five of a list of the best international universities for nurse training this year. According to higher education data firm Quacquarelli Symonds, Manchester was ranked joint third while King’s College was fifth.


ITV and Mirror to celebrate ‘NHS heroes’ in major TV awards

generic television

ITV and The Mirror have launched the NHS Heroes Awards to celebrate nurses and other staff in the service’s 70th anniversary year. Categories include “hero nurse”, celebrating an outstanding individual who has excelled in their role. The awards ceremony will be screened live on TV in May.


Nurses helping children to live with their ‘chronic pain monsters’

University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust

Nurses helping children to live with their ‘chronic pain monsters’

Children’s Pain Workshop on 30 January 2018 at the BRITE centre. Pictured with the children are specialist nurse Sarah Roberts and therapist Daniela Taylor

Specialist nurses at University Hospitals of Leicester Trust have adopted a creative and unique approach to helping young patients cope with chronic pain via the use of arts and crafts. Children have been making their imaginary “pain monster” as a way of helping them express their pain.




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