The UK Independence Party would reintroduce state enrolled nurses to encourage more “home grown talent” in nursing, as part of a package of election pledges on the NHS.
It set out a range of policies affecting nursing, including measures to increase staff numbers, support the development of healthcare assistants and reverse the move to a degree-only entry profession.
“There is a desperate need to bring care and compassion back to the heart of nursing”
UKIP’s health spokeswoman Louise Bours launched the party’s health policy yesterday. In a speech made during a visit to Rochester in Kent, she stated: “To achieve the highest possible quality of care we must have the right policies for nursing.”
“Although the NHS is the biggest employer in the UK, it does not have enough nurses,” she said. “UKIP would redress the imbalance of their being too many managers, not enough frontline staff.”
To help achieve its workforce aim, it would “simplify procedures” for former nurses to return to practice and bring back the title of state enrolled nurse to enable more HCAs to become registered.
“[Enrolled nurse] training will take place on the wards, utilizing the current pool of auxiliary staff allowing them to work toward becoming a state registered nurse,” she said.
Assistant nurses, later known as the state enrolled nurses, appeared in 1943 but were phased out during the early 1990s after the restructuring of nurse education under Project 2000. Enrolled nurses were recorded by the former General Nursing Councils but did not have to undergo full registration.
More generally, Ms Bours claimed nurse training “should take place on the ward, not in a university lecture theatre”.
“There is a desperate need to bring care and compassion back to the heart of nursing, to end the ‘too posh to wash’ attitude of some graduates and make sure patients never again die on our wards because their basic needs to be fed, given something to drink, and to be kept warm and comfortable are not being met,” she said.
In addition, she said that under UKIP control nurse managers would be “responsible for ward cleanliness, the efficient operation of their wards, and oversight of nurse training on their wards”.
It would also insist that overseas health professionals in the NHS “must hold appropriate qualifications and speak and write English to a level that is acceptable to the profession”.
Overall, Ms Bours pledged to “put quality of care back to the top of the agenda” for the NHS.
For example, she highlighted that UKIP expected home care agencies to pay the minimum wage to their staff, and to pay them on duty or in training.
“There is no excuse for a big care company to hire anyone on a zero-hours contract, or to not pay them when they are travelling between appointments, or ‘on call’,” she said.
“Although the NHS is the biggest employer in the UK, it does not have enough nurses”
The party also said it would scrap hospital parking charges in England and make up the £200m financial shortfall from “tackling health tourism” by overseas nationals using UK health services.
In addition, it said it would require NHS managers to be licensed by law, in the same way that nurses and doctors are registered with professional regulators.
This would “negate the drift of disgraced hospital managers being fired only to find another job elsewhere within the health service”, it said.
It said it also would “abolish” inspections by the Care Quality Commission and pass this responsibility to “local health boards”, which would be “encouraged to take evidence from whistleblowers and patients with grievances”.
Overall, the party pledged to keep the NHS free at the point of delivery and said it would invest £3bn more into providing frontline services – the money coming, it said, from leaving the European Union.
“This money will provide 20,000 new nurses, 3,000 midwives and 8,000 GPs,” said Ms Bours.
It would also provide £130m per year specifically for dementia care, which would total £650m over the entire parliament. It claimed this was double what the Tories had pledged and was in line with what Alzheimer’s Research UK said was needed.
Meanwhile, it said merging health and social care was a “priority” in order to enable more joined-up, integrated patient management.