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


NMC gives go-ahead to relaxed English test for overseas nurses

nmc building

nmc building

Plans to relax the English language test for international nurses and midwives applying to work in the UK have been given the green light.

The move, by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, will see the level required to pass the writing element of the International English Language Test (IELTS) lowered to 6.5 from 7. However, successful applicants will still have to achieve a score of at least 7 in the reading, speaking and listening aspects of the exam.

The regulator’s council approved the changes at its November meeting, with the measures coming into effect this month. More overseas nurses and midwives are expected to join the register as a result of the changes, but NMC director of registration and revalidation Emma Broadbent said: “There’s a lot of people who feel this won’t go far enough… and we need to continue to listen and talk to those people.”

She noted that the IELTS change was part of a wider programme to review the NMC’s overseas registration process. She said it wanted to operate more closely with employers to help new overseas nurses and midwives develop their communication skills once they started work in the UK.

NMC council papers noted that the writing aspect of the IELTS test did not reflect the needs of the “modern working environment for nurses and midwives”. The NMC said many applicants were achieving a 7 or above in the reading, speaking and listening elements but were “just missing the standard” for writing.

In November 2017, the NMC also began accepting the Occupational English Test as an alternative to IELTS.


Exclusive: Hancock ‘willing to consider’ safe staffing law in England

Health and social care secretary

Matt Hancock

Source: Department of Health and Social Care

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has said he will “look at” the possibility of introducing safe nurse staffing legislation in England, Nursing Times has learnt. It is believed to be the first time a minister in England has openly said they are willing to look into the idea of enshrining safe staffing in law, with the government having previously opposed such a move.


Boost in student nurses needed to avoid 350,000 workforce shortfall

nurse tired stress twelve hour shift one use

nurse tired stress twelve hour shift one use

The scale of the nurse workforce crisis facing England has been laid bare by think-tanks, who called on leaders to urgently boost the number of nurses in training through incentives to encourage students to enter the profession and support employers to take on apprentices. In their report, the King’s Fund, Health Foundation and Nuffield Trust warned that trusts could be short of up to 350,000 staff by 2030 if current trends continued.


May: ‘Rapid response’ community teams to reduce admissions

District community nurse home visit carer

District community nurse home visit carer

Source: Samuel Ivin

Theresa May has pledged to cut “needless” admissions and help inpatients return home sooner – through community-based rapid response teams and dedicated support for care home residents. The prime minister announced that there would be investment in primary and community healthcare worth £3.5bn a year in real terms by 2023-24.


Warning over decline in number of district nurse students

Queen’s Nursing Institute

Crystal Oldman

Source: Kate Stanworth

Fears have been raised about the future of district nursing, as student numbers decline. Queen’s Nursing Institute chief executive Crystal Oldman said funding and workforce issues were preventing healthcare bodies from being able to release their nurses for training. Dr Oldman told Nursing Times that action was needed now before it was too late.


Exclusive: Firm seeking to boost supply of Eastern European nurses to NHS


Map of Europe

A recruitment firm claims it could help solve widespread nursing shortages in the UK by hooking up trusts directly with training providers in Eastern Europe and other parts of the European Union. London-based company Hunter Miller is offering to link trusts up with universities and colleges in Poland and Bulgaria who want to help train nurses to work in this country.


London trusts offer to pay visa bills for EU nurses post-Brexit

London map

London map

Trusts in London are offering to cover visa costs for their European Union nurses to encourage them to stay after Brexit. University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust, St George’s University Hospitals Foundation Trust and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust are among those that have pledged to foot the bill for their healthcare staff to apply for “settled status”.

London trusts offer to pay visa bills for EU nurses post-Brexit


Nurse and midwife workforce in UK has risen by almost 4,000

doctors and nurses a&e

doctors and nurses a&e

The number of nurses and midwives registered to work in the UK has increased by almost 4,000 in the past year, latest figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council reveal. The rise in workforce was largely the result of fewer staff leaving the register, bolstered by more international nurses joining from outside Europe.


Health minister bows to pressure to rethink student nurse funding

student nurses at westminster

student nurses at westminster

Students lobby MPs over education funding

Health minister Stephen Hammond has pledged to consider proposals to reintroduce bursaries or a new system of grants for student nurses. During a debate last month, Mr Hammond said the government would look at plans put forward by the Royal College of Nursing to reinvest £1bn a year into higher education for nurses as part of the extra cash promised for the NHS.


New law will ensure nurses’ concerns are heard in wake of Gosport

gosport war memorial hospital

gosport war memorial hospital

Gosport War Memorial Hospital

A new law will be introduced in England to ensure nurses who raise concerns are heard. The legislation will make it mandatory for all NHS trusts to publish yearly reports about how they handled cases of staff speaking up. The plans were announced as part of the government’s response to an independent inquiry into patient deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital.


Nurses help prevent admissions in new ambulance role

urgent care practitioners

urgent care practitioners

Nurses have helped to prevent hundreds of unnecessary admissions to hospital in North West England by responding to 999 calls and treating patients in the community. North West Ambulance Service Trust launched a pilot earlier this year of a new urgent care practitioner position, which has seen nurses employed for the first time by the trust in a role responding to patients.


Global health leaders call for greater investment in nurses and midwives

World Innovation Summit for Health 2018

WISH 2018 reports

Nursing and Midwifery report from the WISH

Harnessing the full potential of nurses and midwives will be essential in ending health inequalities around the world, according to a report on nursing and universal health coverage launched at the World Innovation Summit for Health in Qatar. It called for nurses and midwives to play a “far greater” role in primary care, managing chronic diseases and promoting public health messages to prevent diseases or detect them earlier.


Need for ‘bravery and shift in pace of change’ on NHS diversity issues

laura serrant cropped

laura serrant cropped

Laura Serrant with her OBE

A nursing professor has said that to truly stamp out race inequalities within the NHS will require “bravery” and the commitment of leaders from all backgrounds. Professor Laura Serrant told Nursing Times that lasting change could not be achieved by the will of black and minority ethnic campaigners alone.


Children given modern nursing uniforms to tackle gender bias

NHS Grampian

Future nurse uniform

Nurse Elizabeth Wilson with P2 pupils from Braehead Primary School in Aberdeen

Child-sized, gender-neutral versions of Scotland’s national nursing uniform are at the heart of a new project designed to challenge public perceptions about the image of the profession. Primary school children in Aberdeen and Edinburgh are being given the modern gender-neutral nursing uniforms for dressing up, in an attempt to challenge crucial early perceptions of nursing.


Leading nurses unveiled as new holders of RCN presidential roles

anne marie rafferty

anne marie rafferty

Anne Marie Rafferty

Two “outstanding” nurses with honours from the Queen have been elected to top positions at the Royal College of Nursing. Professor Anne Marie Rafferty and Yvonne Coghill have been voted in as the college’s next president and deputy president, respectively.


New strategy pledges ‘stronger protection’ from violence for NHS staff


Source: Paco Ayala - Fotolia

The government has launched a new NHS violence reduction strategy, which includes measures designed to better protect staff and prosecute offenders more easily. It aims to protect the NHS workforce against “deliberate violence and aggression” and to ensure offenders are “punished quickly and effectively”.


Scheme to boost nurse and midwife leadership in research

Nurse researcher

Nurse research

A new research leadership initiative has been launched for nurses and midwives. The National Institute for Health Research said its 70@70 NIHR Senior Nurse and Midwife Research Leader Programme would “strengthen the research voice” and “drive improvements in future care”.


New guidance sanctions WhatsApp use by nurses in emergencies

Mobile phone

Mobile phone

Instant messaging services like WhatsApp can be a key tool for clinicians when responding to emergency situations, according to an official steer on how to use them safely. New guidance comes after nurses turned to instant communication channels during the Grenfell Tower fire and last year’s terror attacks in London and Manchester.


Trust gains global stamp of approval for nurse working conditions

Northampton General Hospital

Northampton General Hospital

Northampton General Hospital Trust has been named one of the best places in the world for nurses and midwives to work. The trust is the first in the UK to achieve Pathway to Excellence accreditation from the American Nurses’ Credentialing Center.


Charity launches Christmas appeal to help struggling nurses

Cavell Nurses' Trust

#BoostInABox Christmas campaign


A charity has launched a new Christmas appeal to aid nurses struggling financially after seeing the number of nursing professionals seeking its help double in the last three years. Cavell Nurses’ Trust will be seeking to raise money for those in need and also to fund parcels of gifts for nursing staff working over the festive period.


WW1 nurse among those honoured in Armistice beach tribute

downhill beach 1

downhill beach 1

Source: Charles Pacemaker, 14-18 NOW

A portrait of nurse Rachel Ferguson is revealed on Downhill beach in Northern Ireland on Armistice Day

A nurse who lost her life while caring for First World War casualties was among those commemorated on Sunday in a series of sand portraits to mark 100 years since the end of the conflict. Rachel Ferguson, of the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, was one of 28 people to be honoured on Armistice Day in the project curated by filmmaker Danny Boyle.











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