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Review of the year: Nursing in the news during 2015

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Steve Ford takes a look back over the year, highlighting scandals that shook the profession, the key developments that will shape its future and the successes that demonstrate its value.


Breda Athan, senior matron and high level isolation unit lead; Dr Michael Jacobs, consultant in infectious diseases; and Pauline Cafferkey

Pauline Cafferkey

Senior matron Breda Athan, consultant Dr Michael Jacobs and Pauline Cafferkey

Winning treatment – UK nurse Pauline Cafferkey was successfully treated by nursing staff in a special isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital in London, after contracting ebola in Sierra Leone. She was subsequently readmitted and treated for delayed complications of the disease in the autumn.

Eileen Sills

Eileen Sills

Eileen Sills

Grand dame – Eileen Sills, chief nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust, was among more than 20 members of the nursing profession recognised by the Queen in the 2015 honours list. She was made a dame.

Setting the agenda – A Labour dossier on the health service used a recent Nursing Times survey to highlight the “real nursing pressures in the NHS”. The dossier, drawn up ahead of the general election, quoted our survey published in 2014, which found more than half of nurses believed their ward or unit was dangerously understaffed a year after the Francis report.

Knife in the heart – An “inadequate” rating given to Hinchingbrooke hospital by healthcare inspectors was a “knife in the heart” for nurses who work there, according to its director of nursing. In an interview with Nursing Times, Deirdre Fowler stressed her deep disappointment with the Care Quality Commission’s conclusions, after Hinchingbrooke Health and Care Trust became the first NHS provider to be rated “inadequate” for how caring it was towards patients.



Peter Carter RCN Deputies' Congress

Peter Carter

Peter Carter

End of an era  Peter Carter announced he was leaving the Royal College of Nursing, after eight years as its chief executive and general secretary.

Tough talk  All NHS staff and students should be taught how to raise concerns, said Sir Robert Francis in his government-commissioned report on whistleblowing – titled Freedom to Speak Up.



Lord Willis

‘We aim to ensure nurses get the best education and training’

Lord Willis

Class act Lord Willis published the findings from his Shape of Caring review on nurse education and training, in which he called for a shake-up of the traditional four branches of nursing and better training for healthcare assistants among 34 key recommendations.

Election 2015 logo short

NT Election 2015 logo short

Party politics As the nation’s attention focused on the run-up to the general election, David Cameron promised to make the NHS a truly “seven-day” service within five years, sparking concerns of attacks on out-of-hours terms and conditions, and ultimately a dispute with junior doctors. Nursing Times also canvassed each of the main parties on their pledges for nursing and the NHS.

Whipps Cross University Hospital

Whipps Cross University Hospital

Whipps Cross University Hospital

Wrong priority The largest trust in England, Barts Health NHS Trust, was placed in special measures, amid claims that financial targets had been put ahead of safe staffing levels.

On the up In the wake of strike action in late 2014, nursing and midwife unions in England accepted a government offer, which saw most staff receive a 1% pay rise in 2015-16.

Strike back A national campaign was launched with the aim of using nurses’ knowledge of essential items, such as gloves and syringes, to buy equipment more efficiently and save the NHS money. The Small Changes, Big Difference campaign was the brainchild of Mandie Sunderland, chief nurse of Nottingham University Hospitals Trust.

Mandie Sunderland

Mandie Sunderland

Mandie Sunderland

Care failings – The Kirkup review concluded that “serious and shocking” failures had occurred at almost every level at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust, resulting in the unnecessary deaths of mothers and babies between 2004 and 2013.



Royal College of Midwives

Midwives in Northern Ireland complete historic strike

Midwives on strike

Best behaviour – The Royal College of Midwives in Northern Ireland staged a four-hour strike over pay for the first time in its history.

Shop smart The Nursing and Midwifery Council’s revised code of conduct came into effect.



Big up yourself Nurses around the world celebrated International Nurses Day on 12 May – the theme of which was “nurses: a force for change; care effective, cost effective”.

Yeovil District Hospital Foundation Trust

Nursing staff around the world celebrate Nurses’ Day

The winning cake in Yeovil District Hospital FT’s baking competition

Justice prevails Victorino Chua, who worked as a nurse at Stockport Foundation Trust’s Stepping Hill Hospital, was handed a life sentence after being found guilty of murdering two patients in his care and poisoning 19 others with ampoules and saline drips contaminated with insulin in 2011.



Called to a halt – There was shock and anger when it was revealed that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence had been asked to halt work on pioneering guidance on safe nursing levels, recommended by the Francis report. Responsibility for the project was passed to NHS England.

Royal College of Nursing

New RCN chief ‘frustrated’ by those who look to nursing past

Janet Davies

New leader The Royal College of Nursing appointed Janet Davies, its former director of nursing and service delivery, to be its next chief executive and general secretary. The college’s annual congress also took place in Bournemouth.



Near miss – Official figures confirmed that the government had narrowly missed its target to recruit an extra 4,200 health visitors by the end of March – instead boosting numbers since May 2010 by 3,985.

Funding gap – Unions and educators clashed over the future sustainability of funding for nurse education in England, paving the way for government policy later in the year. Meanwhile, Health Education England said it planned to train an additional 23,121 nurses by 2019.


Breaking point – Nurse recruitment in care homes reached crisis point, warned experts on the sector, with managers claiming they were struggling to compete with the NHS for staff amid a national workforce.



Crystal Oldman

Crystal Oldman

Crystal Oldman

Safest route – A mapping exercise by NHS Protect found just 16% of lone workers had a safety device – such as an alert built into a badge or key fob. Crystal Oldman, chief executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute, said it was vital to get safety systems right given efforts to move more care into the community.



Workforce worries Exclusive investigations by Nursing Times revealed that the recent growth of the nurse workforce had slowed significantly and that there was a crisis in the recruitment of NHS nursing directors.

Making the cut New targets for trusts to reduce agency staff spending were unveiled which came into force on 1 October, followed later in the year by price caps on the hourly rates paid to agency nurses.

Jane Cummings

Jane Cummings

Jane Cummings

Planning ahead The chief nursing officer for England Jane Cummings revealed she was working on a new strategy for the profession, replacing Compassion in Practice from 2012.



Revalidation is go The Nursing and Midwifery Council approved the introduction of the new system of nurse competency checks called revalidation, which its chief executive Jackie Smith described as a “historic moment”.

Jackie Smith

Jackie Smith

Jackie Smith

Open border Immigration controls on overseas nurses working in the UK were relaxed after home secretary Theresa May told the Migration Advisory Committee to temporarily place nursing on the shortage occupation list.

Leading questions Directors of nursing gathered in Brighton for the inaugural Nursing Times’ Directors’ Congress, with concerns about staffing levels and recruitment high on the agenda.

Toing and froing – During a frantic week towards the end of the month, Nursing Times revealed in a series of campaigning exclusives the government’s changing position on whether to delay or go-ahead as planned with revalidation in England.

Royal Mint

New commemorative £5 coin honours WWI nurse

The coin is one of a set of six

Lest we forget The centenary of the execution of First World War nurse Edith Cavell was marked around the country in October The Royal Mint previously announced that her life was to be marked on a new commemorative £5 coin, following a campaign.  



Mind the gap  Nursing Times revealed imminent government plans to introduce a new nursing role designed to bridge the gap between registered nurses and senior healthcare assistants. The role is expected to be assigned to band 4 and be given the title “associate nurse”.

Best man Among an array of deserving winners at the 2015 Nursing Times Awards, the nurse of the year was unveiled as Edward Vandi, from West London Mental Health NHS Trust.

Nurse of the year

Nurse of the year

Edward Vandi

Hard cash  In his autumn spending review, chancellor George Osborne announced that bursaries for student nurses would be replaced by a series of loans from September 2017. Universities supported the move, but it sparked protests by students and unions.



Flooding in Cumbria

Cumbria healthcare disruption continues

Storm Desmond over the UK on 5 December 

Wreaking havoc – Storm Desmond brought flooding and disruption to hospital and community healthcare services across Cumbria and the north west.

Survey said… – The Nursing Times annual survey revealed the concerns of nurses around the country about workforce issues including staffing levels, agency spending, revalidation and new roles for healthcare assistants.

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • dtbarron

    Interested in which items have been selected for inclsion, some important some less so - CNO England is going to have a review is worthy of inclusion (ie thinking about a plan to maybe do something) yet the appointment of CNO Scotland isn't worth inclusion in the yearly roundup.

    Kind of explains why most Scottish nurses I speak to rarely read NT!

    Disappointed again!

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