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‘A year of change for nursing, with more on the way’

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Although it is not over yet, it is fair to say that 2018 has been a year of change for nursing.

In terms of the profession’s leadership, some change has been expected and some of it dramatically less so. We will shortly have a new chief nursing office for England; we already have a new head of the nursing regulator, a new health secretary and significant leadership changes at the Royal College of Nursing.  

”Nursing must be made more attractive for future students so that we have a home-grown pipeline of new nurses”

The Nursing Now campaign is seeking to boost the voice and influence of the profession around the world. This is a worthy ambition, but there remains work to be done in this area closer to home. Too often I hear people in public life talking about nursing in a way that I do not recognise as the skilled and dedicated profession I know so well. 

There have also been other changes in the UK, with new education standards launched by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the further roll-out of new nursing roles and the end of pay caps and freezes for the time being.  

But we are not done yet. This month should see both the identity of England’s new CNO finally revealed and the much-vaunted NHS long-term plan unveiled. Will it have all the answers? I somehow doubt it. I suspect there are many challenges facing nursing and healthcare that will take even longer-term solutions than a 10-year plan.

Above all, nursing must be made more attractive for future students so that we have a home-grown pipeline of new nurses.  

Despite years of talking about it, more work still needs to be done to reengineer the balance between community and hospital services. To achieve this, inevitably, we need more nurses wanting to work in primary and community care settings.

Diversity in nursing remains a huge area that needs addressing. Despite the fact that nursing is generally more diverse than many professions, those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds often struggle to progress in their careers.

Leadership in nursing generally also needs development. Many of our most established senior nurses are nearing retirement and the supply of those coming up to replace them seems less than it should be – perhaps due to the pressures of the job as well as lack of support.

There is plenty to focus on improving and changing. But let’s finish on a positive note – happy birthday once again to the NHS as its 70th anniversary year draws to a close. See you in 2019. 

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