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Your weekly news summary: 11 February 2017

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The UK is split over the introduction of England’s new nursing associate role, with details emerging of some “hostility” towards the post from the devolved nations.

Following the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s decision to agree to the Department of Health’s request to regulate associates last month, it has transpired that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may not bring in the new post. The countries said they already have healthcare support workers in place who are governed by codes of practice.

The chair of the inquiry into care failings at the former Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust has warned current pressures on the NHS mean it is “inevitable” a similar scandal could occur. In an interview to mark the fourth anniversary of the inquiry’s report, Sir Robert Francis said the health service was facing an “existential crisis”, and was “manifestly failing” to keep pace with demand. He warned national leaders were failing to recognise growing threats to patient safety that were being created by policy decisions.

Staff flu vaccination levels at trusts across England this year range from 93% to 18.4%, new analysis of immunisation data by Nursing Times has revealed. The 10 trusts with the worst staff vaccination levels for winter 2016-17 were all in the mental health sector – reflecting a historical trend – with the exception of one major London hospital trust and an ambulance service. Meanwhile, the 10 trusts with the highest levels were all in the hospital sector, though the top spot went to a specialist provider, Birmingham Children’s Hospital Foundation Trust.

Employers who are struggling to support student nurses on clinical placements due to “highly pressurised” workplaces may not be ready to take on apprentice nurses as well, a university chief has warned. Professor Steve West, vice-chancellor of the University of the West of England, said that while he was in favour of apprenticeships for nursing “we’ve got to find a model that works”.

Further improvements at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust has led the Care Quality Commission to rate it as “good” following its latest inspection. The regulator noted changes were particularly evident in end of life services, gynaecology and maternity – where the trust had implemented the recommendations from Dr Bill Kirkup’s high profile inquiry into care failings at the organisation. The trust’s chief executive described the last three years as a “remarkable turnaround”.

E-cigarettes are less toxic and safer to use than conventional cigarettes, according to UK researchers. They found people who swapped smoking regular cigarettes for e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement therapy for at least six months had much lower levels of cancer-causing substances than smokers. The study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, was the first to look at levels of toxic chemicals in the body from e-cigarettes. Previous research focused on assessing concentrations of potentially harmful chemicals within the products themselves. Lead study author Dr Lion Shahab, from University College London, said: “Our results also suggest that while e-cigarettes are not only safer, the amount of nicotine they provide is not noticeably different to conventional cigarettes. This can help people to stop smoking altogether by dealing with their cravings in a safer way.”

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