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'Nursing needs to have a place at the top table'

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If ever there are financial savings to be made, nursing is the first place ministers – as well as chief executives and boards –look to to make savings. Nursing is an easy target on the front line, and – so it seems – in senior positions too.

Nursing Times has discovered that there are significant job cuts planned at the Department of Health, many of which could be in nursing and midwifery, which could have an enormous impact on the quality of policies made around nursing (see the story here).

In recent times, since the chief nursing officer for England role moved to NHS England, and last year when the DH’s director of nursing role shifted to Public Health England, there have been very few senior civil servants with a nursing background able to independently advise the government. And that reduction in senior nursing roles at the DH had a tangible impact.

Here are just a few examples of where the missing nursing voice led to issues for the profession: the shambles over the proposed delayed introduction of revalidation in England, which Nursing Times uncovered last year; the poor quality of information given to the Migration Advisory Committee over the nursing shortage that led to nurses not being put on this list originally; the removal of the student nurse bursary mentioned as an afterthought in the chancellor’s comprehensive spending review last autumn; and the absence of any concrete information about how the nursing associate role will be trained and regulated – if that role is, in fact, to be regulated. A fact that is still in some doubt.

With even fewer people at the Department of Health to advise government on just what the impact of their proposed changes are, we are likely to head faster towards a world in which ministers make policy decisions without any regard for the nursing profession – and the patient.

Without a truly independent team with clinical experience offering evidence-based advice, I worry about the future of nursing. But, of course, a lack of a powerful voice championing what nursing needs only plays into the hands of a government that disregards the profession so much they announced their intention to remove the bursary without first consulting unions or experts on its impact. Expect more of that if the

DH jobs go. This is yet another way to keep nurses quiet. And no one seems to be shouting about it.

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