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'Invest in skilled nurses to make real savings'


It’s that time of year again. The Royal College of Nursing’s annual congress is upon us and by the time you read this Andrew Lansley will have inevitably endured a frosty reception from delegates.

The health secretary’s failure to address the full conference in 2011 coupled with his unpopular Health and Social Care Bill – now act – were only going to make his task more difficult this year.

Much has happened since last year’s conference, the majority as gloomy as most of this spring’s weather. The wrangle over NHS pensions appears to be almost over, with ministers apparently in the box seat to force through their “final offer”. And the first sparring has begun over what unions see as the real battleground, Agenda for Change. This all comes against a background of an overall pay freeze for most NHS nursing staff and the loss of posts.

Latest figures from the RCN’s Frontline First campaign suggested 26,300 NHS posts had gone in the two years to April with a further 34,700 at risk over the next three years.

But this week we report on a glimmer of sunshine, in the West Midlands. Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals Trust is introducing ward matrons. Rather than a “bring back matron” headline grabber, the trust sees it as a way of boosting nurse leadership without losing any clinical capacity. The trust estimates the move will cost nearly £700,000 a year in extra staffing costs, but hopes to save much more than this through better patient outcomes.

This is the sort of forward thinking that the NHS needs. Rather than viewing cuts to the staff pay bill as the path of least resistance for quick financial gain, managers should seek to make savings through better care standards by investing in skilled nurses. This would be better for staff, better for patients, better for everyone.

There are also other crumbs of comfort. The Nursing and Care Quality Forum has begun its work. Although it is easy to be cynical about the forum’s political birth, its members seem serious and focused about helping nursing during a difficult period. They should take note of what Sandwell and West Birmingham is doing.

Also, in a few weeks, a new chief nursing officer for England will take up her appointment full time. Jane Cummings is already starting to speak out on issues such as pride in nursing, and is a passionate advocate of nurses leading improvements in care.

If you are at congress, I hope you are having a good one. And to everyone, a belated happy Nurses’ Day. Follow me on Twitter @SteveJFord


Readers' comments (2)

  • I would also suggest that once you have produced the 'skilled nurse' - you utilise those skills regularly so that they are maintained and supported.

    I am very clinically very underused in my own job and could do so much more if there were less paperwork that also needed my attention!

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  • and how do you expect to develop and maintain these skills if you can't even get a job? i'm so demotivated and let down I can't even be bothered to read beyond the headlines as it is merely repetition of what has already been said before - and I have just read yet again in the DT today that the most basic skills of nursing such as feeding the elderly are still being neglected despite all the recent media coverage. Have no lessons been learned at all?

    All I hear and read is more empty and meaningless words from the government, the authorities and the press which has all been said before and just continues to go round and round in circles with no signs of change or of any improvement! Reading articles on the same subjects and writing comments is becoming increasingly frustrating and more and more of waste of time.

    My long and originally wonderfully rewarding career has now ended in ruins instead of ending on a high note on retirement as I had hoped and I have already drawn the line with the NMC as something had to give to help meet all the other rising costs associated with basic daily living needs so no need to worry about me any more but there are still thousands of nurses, present and future, with their education, training, further development and careers to accord the utmost serious concern to as well as all the other resources they need to carry out their jobs satisfactorily to prevent this situation as it is now from continuing by empowering them through their own professional autonomy and personal and professional responsibility to provide the best possible care to the British population who are unfortunate enough to become patients, which is potentially and tragically any one of us, and most of whom would wish a natural and comfortable death rather than a premature one following a much diminished quality of life precipitated by mismanagement and/or negligent and/or inappropriate care from the so-called 'health care' and the social services.

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