Review of 2016: A year of challenges and triumphs for nurses
Stephanie Jones-Berry looks back on a year of challenges and triumphs for nurses.
Stephanie Jones-Berry looks back on a year of challenges and triumphs for nurses
Thousands of people marched on Downing Street in protest against Whitehall plans to scrap nursing students’ bursaries and replace them with loans. Anger against the government continued as the Department of Health argued pay rises for NHS nurses in England should be capped at 1%. Many nurses pledged support for their medical colleagues as junior doctors went on the first of several unprecedented strikes over pay and conditions. Nurses recognised in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list included Public Health England chief nurse Viv Bennett, who was made CBE for services to nursing. RCN president Cecilia Anim launched the college’s centenary celebrations, marking 100 years of service.
Wales became the first country in the UK to mandate nurse staffing in its hospitals – a law that RCN general secretary Janet Davies deemed ‘a victory’ for the health service. The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) announced it would develop new standards for pre-registration nurse education, following a review that found those existing to be inadequate. Healthcare workers were told to inform pregnant women of the risk of the Zika virus if travelling to affected countries.
Nursing Standard revealed The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) ‘reluctantly’ agreed to recommend that up to 5,000 non-European Union (EU) nurses could enter the UK to work each year. MAC chair Sir David Metcalf warned the government that foreign nurses were not a long-term solution to nurse recruitment. The RCN, Unison and Safe Staffing Alliance warned the plan to introduce a new nursing associate role, seen as a bridge between healthcare assistants and nurses, should not be used to cut costs by replacing vacant nursing posts. The NHS staff survey showed that almost two fifths of NHS nurses in England experienced work-related stress in the previous year, while 60% felt pressured to work while sick.
Revalidation was launched by the NMC, requiring all registered nurses to demonstrate their fitness to practise through the new system every three years. NMC chief executive Jackie Smith said it was ‘the most significant regulatory change’ in the organisation’s history and would improve patient safety. The Scottish government announced it was trialling approaches to out-of-hours provision in eight regions, including wider use of advanced nurse practitioners and more home visits. The NHS unveiled its first national policy for whistleblowers in England. The University of Manchester and King’s College London were named among the world’s top ten academic institutions for nursing.
Celebrations took place across the UK for International Nurses Day. England’s chief nursing officer Jane Cummings launched her framework for the profession Leading Change, Adding Value. RCN Scotland director, Theresa Fyffe, warned NHS targets in Scotland needed ‘an urgent overhaul’. Clinical nurse specialist Venetia Wynter-Blyth was named Nurse of the Year at the RCNi Nurse Awards, for a programme she developed to prepare patients for surgery. Nurse Tony Kemp, who risked his life to save a pilot in the 2015 Shoreham Airshow crash, was honoured in London by the Royal Humane Society.
Britain voted to leave the European Union (EU) and ‘Brexit’ was born, creating major uncertainty for the future of EU staff working in the NHS. The Welsh government said more lives were being saved through organ donations, thanks to new groundbreaking legislation allowing people to opt in and out of being a donor. The first report of the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard showed black and minority ethnic (BME) staff were more likely than white staff to report bullying or abuse, and demonstrated a lack of faith in their employer’s equal opportunities for career progression. More than 200 years after her birth, and 12 years after a campaign started to recognise her achievements, a statue to nurse heroine Mary Seacole was unveiled in London.
Theresa May replaced David Cameron as prime minister and in a surprise move kept Jeremy Hunt as health secretary, amid a major cabinet reshuffle. The government later confirmed student bursaries for nurses would be scrapped from August 2017 and replaced by loans. Kate Granger, founder of the #HelloMyNameIs campaign, died from cancer. French president François Hollande paid tribute to nurses and other healthcare workers who worked ‘around the clock, through the night’ treating victims of the Nice lorry attack on Bastille Day. A powerful photograph of a protesting US nurse calmly facing a line of riot police officers became an unofficial symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement. Leshia Evans, who was arrested shortly after the photo was taken, was one of 100 people detained by police during a Black Lives Matter protest in the Louisiana capital Baton Rouge.
Leaked documents revealed the government’s plan to make a seven-day NHS could lack enough nurses to make it workable. Files obtained by the Guardian and Channel 4 News were said to demonstrate senior officials’ concerns over a lack of evidence supporting health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s policy to improve care at weekends. Pauline Cafferkey, the nurse infected with the Ebola virus while caring for sick people in west Africa, was cleared of misconduct by an NMC panel, following claims she concealed her temperature during checks on her return to the UK in December 2014.
Health think tank the King’s Fund published an analysis of district nursing services, in which it said unmanageable caseloads and staff shortages were compromising the quality of patient care. Queen’s Nursing Institute Crystal Oldman said the system was ‘waking up’ to the importance of the service. Letters were sent to almost 54,000 former practising nurses in England, urging them to return to the profession as part of a new initiative by Health Education England. Council of Deans of Health chair dame Jessica Corner said it could take a decade to solve the nurse staffing crisis in the NHS. The RCN announced a new scheme offering accreditation to advanced nurse practitioners (ANPs).
Hard-pressed NHS staff were turning to payday loans, pawning their belongings and visiting food banks as they struggled to make ends meet, according to research by Unison. The union’s head of nursing Gail Adams announced she was moving to a new role in the organisation after 14 years in post. ‘I have loved every minute,’ she said. Four in five nursing staff were found to have no training in transgender care in a survey by the RCN, which warned nurses were ill-equipped to meet the needs of transgender people. Nurses were urged to join the fight against modern slavery, which includes sexual exploitation and human trafficking, in an NHS awareness raising campaign.
A Nursing Standard investigation revealed the scale of plagiarism among nursing students, finding 2,752 cases of academic misconduct in a four-year period. NHS Improvement announced its ‘buddy scheme’ for the health service’s future chief nurses, who are being partnered with more senior nursing counterparts as part of a new programme of support. Jeremy Hunt unveiled plans for the new nursing degree apprenticeship programme, a move criticised as an ‘act of amnesia’ by Anne Marie Rafferty, professor of nursing policy at King’s College London.
Disproportionate numbers of nurses from BME backgrounds, as well as men, are referred to fitness to practise proceedings, NMC data revealed. Nursing is the most trusted profession in the UK, according to a poll by Ipsos Mori.