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Nursing resilience in a political vortex

What would happen if we took the politics out of an ever changing public health environment, asks RCN Public Health Forum and independent healthcare consultant Jason Warriner

What would happen if we took the politics out of an ever-changing public health environment, asks RCN Public Health Forum and independent healthcare consultant Jason Warriner


Picture: iStock

At a time when there appear to be so many changes in health and social care across the UK, it can be difficult to see what the future holds. Nurses working in primary healthcare and public health will be aware of the challenges that face nursing currently, but we also know that with every challenge opportunities come along.

At times it can be difficult to see through the mist and recognise an opportunity.

Navigating our way through recruitment and retention issues, the potential of leaving the European Union, changes to funding in nursing education, proposed pay awards are all complex challenges on many levels. However, over the years nurses have demonstrated professionalism, resilience and the ability to respond to change and have developed new ways of working to ensure high quality and safe care is provided to patients.

We know that sustained financial investment in public health will ensure that the progress made over the past decade to improve the nations' health will continue. Likewise, there has to be continued investment in community nursing to ensure that the role of community nurses is valued and patients can be cared for at home or in a place of their choice.

It can feel like politics and finance direct our future, and we are left responding to decisions that we cannot influence or change.

Has the NHS become more politically driven?

Across the UK we now have different health systems in place in each of the four countries alongside regional devolution in England. Political devolution has changed the way we work. It does, at times, seem like the NHS has become more politically driven and changing political agendas does not help improve access to services or patient care.

Would the NHS be better managed without the politics? Enabling long-term strategies to be devised, implemented and evaluated rather than the chop and change process that happens now? Integrated thinking and decision-making without politics could make a massive change to how health and social care services are provided and save money. However, would removing political agendas make a difference or would it stifle innovation and would we still be working with the same financial constraints?

'When things get tough – and change seems to be taking place almost every day – remaining professional, pragmatic and keeping the trust of the public is vital for our future'

What we do know is that all areas of nursing need to be politically aware, responsive to change and to advocate for our profession and patients, when needed. Any kind of change can be uncomfortable and difficult. However, using our professional skills and knowledge may make some changes easier and enable us to influence things in a different way.

Time to advocate for our specialties

The profile of nurses working in community settings and public health roles has increased and developed over the past few years. It is imperative that we continue to advocate for our specialities, promote the innovation and good work happening every day, as well as showing the difference we make to patients lives.

At the 2018 RCN Congress a range of debates and discussions took place, highlighting the impact changes happening now are having. Debates covered the funding cuts for public health nurses, low morale and poor working conditions for prison nursing staff, the cessation of some preregistration learning disability nursing programmes due to the ending of the bursary system and lack of funding for social care.

The support from congress delegates for primary care and public health nursing was incredible and demonstrates the commitment to our profession.

When things get tough – and change seems to be taking place almost every day – remaining professional, pragmatic and keeping the trust of the public is vital for our future, and pivotal to influencing decision-makers through the nursing voice.


About the author

Jason Warriner is chair RCN Public Health Forum and an independent healthcare consultant

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