What will 2017 hold for the nursing profession?
Stephanie Jones-Berry looks at the key issues facing nurses in 2017
At the end of February 2017, the independent NHS Pay Review Body (RB) will submit its recommendations to government regarding nurses’ pay.
Since 2013, nurses have only seen 1% annual pay increases, thanks to the ongoing government cap on public sector pay.
The NHS staff unions set out their case for a fair pay increase in 2017 on the grounds that salaries in the health service are worth much less in real terms than they were a decade ago.
While the RB has been criticised for being ‘toothless’, RCN lead pay negotiator Josie Irwin says its independent reports have been important, helping to head off government reforms that could have been dangerous.
‘The power of these reports to influence is of real benefit,’ she says.
Campaigning is likely to continue. A petition set up by community nurse Danielle Tiplady, urging government to scrap the 1% pay cap, has been signed by more than 70,000 people, and will be considered for debate in Parliament if it receives 100,000 signatures.
Education and training
Nursing education is expected to see huge changes in 2017. Most radical is the controversial end to bursaries for nursing students in England. From September, funding will come through the tuition fees and student loans system instead, a government move that attracted mass protests in 2016.
Routes into nursing have widened after Jeremy Hunt unveiled further details of nursing degree apprenticeships in late November.
The scheme is set to start in September 2017. Apprentice nurses will train on the job rather than undertaking a traditional degree, have a salary set locally and will fulfil all requirements to become a registered nurse. The move could see up to 1,000 apprentice nurses joining the NHS each year.
Meanwhile, the first cohort of 1,000 nursing associates, which will be regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, began training in December, with a second wave due to begin in 2017. Concerns nursing associates may be used as ‘nurses on the cheap’ have been raised by health unions.
New draft educational standards for pre-registration nurse education are being prepared by the Nursing and Midwifery Council and should be published and open for consultation in early 2017.
Prime minister Theresa May has said she wants to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of March 2017, meaning the UK will have two years to negotiate its exit from the European Union (EU). As yet, EU nationals living and working in the UK do not have firm assurances about their position following the referendum result in June 2016.
The fallout from the voters’ decision to leave the EU could take years to resolve. Top of the list of issues is the UK nursing workforce, which is bolstered by 26,000 registered nurses from the EU, not to mention thousands of healthcare support roles in hospitals and care homes.
A coalition of 29 health and social care organisations, known as the Cavendish Coalition, will work to ensure sustainable workforce supply and standards of care during the withdrawal from the EU.