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‘The year ahead will bring challenges for nursing’

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Here we are in January once again, with a whole year stretching out before us. But what will it bring for nursing and healthcare?

So far things have been relatively positive, which makes a change. According to NHS England, the health service is “performing better this winter than last”. It’s early days still of course, but it is refreshing not to be talking about a winter crisis. 

There have also been some early opportunities to celebrate nursing. Nearly 30 members of the profession or those linked to it appeared in the New Year’s Honours list. Meanwhile, the social media movement WeNurses has created its own list of 100 nurses that have been nominated as outstanding. Among them is one of our Nursing Times student editors for 2019 Craig Davidson, so well done to him. And speaking of students, those involved in nurse education have until 18 January to enter this year’s Student Nursing Times Awards.  

On more serious matters, the now delayed long-term plan for the NHS in England has been published. There is always a danger with such policy documents that too much hope of salvation is placed on them before they’ve even been printed, but I think the long-term plan will be better than most. For example, it includes a chapter specifically dedicated to workforce and the promise of a separate plan on this vital area later in the year. This suggests that for once, the key issue affecting healthcare is not being ducked. We shall see.

In the next few weeks, we will also see a new chief nursing officer for England, Dr Ruth May, taking up office and a new chief executive at the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Both will hopefully have fresh ideas in mind, but no doubt will inherit an in-box full of problems. 

Other parts of the UK are arguably ahead of England on the strategic front. The Welsh government has already published a long-term plan for health and social care, which promises a “person-centred approach”, and the Scottish government has promised an integrated health and social care workforce plan. Progress in Northern Ireland, however, remains stymied due to the ongoing suspension of the country’s ruling assembly and executive.

The year ahead will undoubtedly bring challenges for nurses and nursing but for now forgive me for being positive. Happy new year from everyone at Nursing Times.

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