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Nursing research celebrates landmark

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A host of leading nurse academics gathered last week to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the National Nursing Research Unit, the only unit of its kind in the country.

The unit, based at the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery, part of King’s College London, celebrated its landmark birthday at a special event on 11 September.

It was set up in 1977 to conduct independent academic inquiries into key policy questions for the Department of Health, and continues to undertake empirical research and reviews to inform policy and practice relevant to the nursing workforce.

Most recently it has been involved in work to support the government’s health visitor strategy and was a key partner in the Europe-wide RN4CAST study into factors affecting the nursing workforce.

It has also carried out and published regular reviews of available evidence on key workforce issues, including nurse staffing ratios and overseas nurse migration.

The celebration was attended by three of the unit’s former directors, including its first Jack Hayward. Also in attendance were former directors Fiona Ross and Peter Griffiths, now professor of health services research at the University of Southampton.

In addition, the event saw the launch of the unit’s Policy Plus Review, which draws together some its key work over the past five years.

The review covers the unit’s research into 35 workforce policy issues, including correlations between staff experience and patient experience, nursing metrics and national patient experience measures.

The following tributes were paid to the unit by speakers at the event:


Professor Jill Maben, current director of the NNRU

“What I have really cherished during my time in the NNRU is the very able colleagues I have had the privilege of working with and the opportunity to focus upon issues that affect nursing care quality that I am passionate about.

“Working in the National Nursing Research Unit also provides a great opportunity to influence care delivery and policy at a national and international level, the goal of any nurse researcher.”


Professor Helen McCutcheon, head of the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery

“The fact we are celebrating the 35th anniversary of the NNRU is a testament to the past and present directors’ leadership, stamina and vision.

“The unit stands as an example of what can be achieved when we work together for the common good. It is a gold standard example of how good quality research can make a significant impact on patient care.”


Sally Brearley, chair of the Nursing and Care Quality Forum, and a visiting research fellow at the NNRU 

“I feel we need to applaud all work that has gone on, and is still going on in the Unit, but also we need to emphasise how much we want it to carry on. There is great need for such a research base focused on nursing and it is important that this research should be led by nurses.

“The issue of 12 hour shifts is a case in point. We need to know about the effects this has on the quality of patient care. There are hosts of other issues like this one where we need a sound research base for practice, if we are to maintain and improve the quality for care for our patients and the experience of staff.”


Howard Catton, head of policy and international at the Royal College of Nursing

“The profession owes a debt for the evidence the NNRU gives and the changes it enables. With the new ministerial team in place this is a time like no other where chief nurses and policy leaders need to be supported by cutting edge research.”


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