While the country’s collective head seems to be focused entirely on Brexit and the Tory leadership campaign, it’s easy to forget that other issues still matter. But healthcare is one of those issues, and it can’t be forgotten.
The dust has begun to settle following the publication of the Interim NHS People Plan for England. Most of the workforce ambitions set out in the plan were largely welcomed by the nursing profession’s leaders. It helped that their views had been sought as stakeholders by those drawing up the plan at NHS England and NHS Improvement. Much of the content on, for example, recruitment and retention, sounded positive but none of it is worth a jot without the funding needed to turn ambitions into reality.
Unfortunately, we must wait until the next government spending review to find out how much money the government will invest to achieve the ambitions set out in the people plan; inevitably, the review has been delayed by the Conservative Party leadership race.
Admittedly, things haven’t ground to a complete halt in Westminster. Positive announcements have continued to flow from the Department of Health and Social Care, but nothing that feels especially important or likely to solve the key challenges faced by the NHS.
The Welsh government, in contrast, stole the nursing headlines in recent weeks by announcing that it will continue funding student bursaries for at least another year.
“As someone influential in health policy recently pointed out to me, everything is ‘fluid’ in government at the moment”
In this month’s issue Dame Yvonne Moores, executive chair of the Florence Nightingale Foundation, notes that “something has to be done” to attract more people to study nursing in England, where the bursary was axed two years ago. Dame Yvonne is also concerned about the challenges affecting nurses working in mental health, learning disabilities, and primary and community care. As a way of moving these items further up the agenda, she wants to set up a nursing policy unit at the foundation. This sounds like an excellent idea. Anything that can focus political attentions on nursing has to be a positive.
As someone influential in health policy recently pointed out to me, everything is “fluid” in government at the moment. Roll on 23 July when the results of the Tory leadership election will be announced. At least then we’ll only have the small issue of Brexit to distract politicians from fixing the NHS.