The more nurses there are the better
And I don’t just mean working on the wards or doing the rounds as a district nurse. I mean everywhere in nursing. Last week’s Royal College of Nursing Congress in Glasgow saw members declare the more nurses there are at the “top table” where decisions are made and policy influenced, the better it is for the nurses who are providing care on the frontline.
Congress voted unanimously to campaign for a “strong, permanent and expert nursing voice” at the Department of Health, following announcements that the nursing advisory unit is to be scrapped after 30 September.
There appears to be no plan as to how the government will get its unbiased advice, or any notion of how dissolving the team at the Department of Health will affect the profession.
At a time of many changes – removal of the bursary, halving of post-registration funding, introduction of the nursing associate role and agency caps, worries around recruitment and retention, and achieving safe staffing because of shortages – it seems odd to give the government less advice, not more.
I am sure the chief nursing officer for England, the unions, the RCN and the other arm’s length bodies will work hard to provide ministers with the best advice they can, but this is a big moment in nursing, and these senior nurses need more support to help them do this at this time, not less.
One of last week’s keynote speakers at congress, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon, promised she would not remove the bursary or make student nurses pay tuition fees, and would protect the graduate workforce and respect the recommendations of the independent pay review bodies.
Ms Sturgeon understands nursing because she’s been well briefed by a nursing team positioned to influence ministers. In England, we need to protect that influence, not accept its end.
RCN chief executive Janet Davies has written to health minister Jeremy Hunt about the closure of the unit. She awaits a reply as we go to press. A petition has also been started to campaign for the unit to remain (Bit.ly/UnitRemain). To lose this voice is outrageous. Sign the petition, write to your MP, shout “no” loudly. This is the equivalent of the government putting its fingers in its ears and telling nursing to shut up. Nursing must make them listen.