Nurses deserve a real champion

Posted on: 11th May 2018

Today (12th May) is National Nurses Day. Nurses are the ones with the patients. The backbone of our NHS.

But they’re also massively undervalued. Many work in clinically unsafe environments where understaffing undermines the ability of committed nurses to give their patients the standard of care they seek to uphold.

Safe staffing

When i was in Parliament I fought the case for safe staffing. For example, we made the clinical case that acute hospitals should never have fewer than 1 registered nurse to every 7 patients. In many cases they should have more. Never less. Few hospital trusts achieve this. Many are under extreme financial pressure to cut nurse numbers.

Dumbing down

Now the profession and nursing standards are under the greatest threat. There’s a national shortage of about 30,000 nurses and midwives in the NHS. Now the nursing profession fears the government has plans to dumb down standards.

Registered Nurses are properly trained to degree level and beyond. The proposed semi-trained nurse associates will receive just two years of one day per week release training.

No disrespect to those who are embarking on this course and i for one wish them well. But this is more of a professional care practitioner, and no the less important for that. But it cannot be equated to registered nurses or, as many suspect, replace the registered nurse standard. Government Ministers and health service accountants hope the introduction of nursing associates will help the NHS tick boxes and save money.

But patients won’t be best served by a ‘nursing-by-numbers’ approach as nursing standards are dumbed-down.

A Nursing champion

What Nurses need now are nursing champions. Advocates who will fight to support nurses and uphold standards. But that won’t come from the present government and its supporters.

They’ve stopped the work I was pleased to help instigate through the national Institute of clinical and care excellence (NICE) to advise on safe registered nurse standards.

Many local people, and especially nurses are complaining that my successor as Tory MP for St Ives has argued that there was “no need” for Nurses to be trained to degree level. They’ve also highlighted that he’s supported his Government’s policy to cut student nurse bursaries.

Indeed, people are pointing out that he gleefully published a picture this week in which the Royal College of Nursing was asking him to champion nursing (presumably claiming that’s what he would do?) but the very next day voted to slash bursaries for student nurses. Needless to say, he seems to have become more coy about publishing how he votes and behaves when he’s actually in Parliament doing his job and not just turning up for favourable photo-calls in the constituency.

Support Nurses’ day

There is a better way. That’s by giving the NHS the backing it deserves. Supporting nurses with safe staffing, valuing them properly and maintaining the highest clinical standards.