Welcome to my Blog. I hope you find the posts interesting, informative and perhaps even entertaining(!). I'll update this Blog with my responses to topical stories of the day, important news and tales of my travels up and down the UK, meeting our inspirational nursing staff.

The RCN represents almost 400,000 nurses in the UK and is the country's largest nursing union.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Raising concerns, raising standards...

On Monday we learnt that struck off nurse Margaret Haywood would have her punishment reduced to a one year caution and she is therefore now allowed to return to work.

Margaret had helped in the undercover filming of a Panorama documentary to expose shocking standards of patient care. She was struck off by the NMC in April for breaching patient confidentiality. Whilst we believe that patient confidentiality is exceptionally important, so too is the ability to speak out against poor care, free from fear of retribution.

Margaret was a dedicated nurse with an unblemished career who simply wanted to get back to nursing, so we were very happy with the result.

In May this year we launched its ‘Raising Concerns, Raising Standards’ hotline (0345 7726 300) which gives RCN members the opportunity to register patient safety concerns after following the normal internal procedures. The hotline is confidential and will protect our members who call and make sure the appropriate action is then taken.

This is undoubtedly a good start and I’m proud that the RCN has taken the lead on this hugely important issue, however – more needs to be done.

Over the weeks and months before the next General Election, the RCN will be calling on all political parties to protect those who speak out about patient safety. We believe that all healthcare organisations should be required to hold a register of staff concerns that must be reported to their Board regularly and made available to the public.

If we’re going to protect those who seek to improve patient care we need a united approach that helps all healthcare workers, not just RCN members.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Care before cuts...

This is a comment piece that appeared in the Guardian this week...

Earlier this year, the RCN undertook a Freedom of Information request that revealed the NHS spends at least £350 million a year on management consultants; a figure that we suspect could be much higher.

If anything pointed out the waste and inefficiencies that could be cut from an NHS budget, this was surely it.

Of the huge figure spent on these consultants, 78% (or £273 million) was spent on projects that did not directly affect patient care. These include re-branding trusts, changing logos or re-naming organisations to make them more attractive to potential patients.

The RCN has nothing against management consultants, but when one considers that the money spent on them could pay for 330 fully staffed medical wards, one has to question the virtue of this expenditure.

If the NHS is to look to ways to reduce spending, which in today’s climate appears inevitable, then we must look at costs like these. What we mustn’t do is wield the axe towards our front line services and the areas that comfort, cure and care for patients.

One can only imagine how demoralising all this must be for our nurses, doctors and others; to see such vast sums spent on consultancy when they fear their own services may face cut backs and budget reductions.

Cuts to our front line would see waiting lists soar, standards plummet and a quality of care that no patient deserves. Efficiencies can be made, but they must be made intelligently and to areas of spending that don’t impact on the dignified and quality care that all patients deserve.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

The next step...

Having recently departed from the Labour party conference, one issue in particular stayed with me. Both the Prime Minister and Andy Burnham, the Secretary of State for Health, made mention of the Social Care Green Paper; one of the most important pieces of work being undertaken right now.

Last year we celebrated the 60th birthday of our national health service and now we must turn our attention to ensuring an equally fair and available social care service.

The current framework for adult social care is now widely recognised as confusing and outdated. Patients often find themselves on a ‘revolving door’ between health and social care – the current system needs a radical overhaul.

The Government admits the status quo isn’t good enough. This status quo ranges from more money being taken from those who have saved to a postcode lottery for quality care.

A far greater percentage of the population are now cared for in their own homes, which can only be a positive move. However, many care services in the community remain fragmented. Moving the care of vulnerable people into local areas will require significant investment in community nursing services, along with community matrons, district nurses and specialist nurses.

What’s more, effective preventative measures can have significant long-term gains; such as investing to prevent falls, which can mean people not having to experience an unplanned admission into hospital or into residential care.

There is much to discuss and your involvement is crucial. ‘Big Care Debates’ are being held up and down the Country so please go to the event being held near you - http://careandsupport.direct.gov.uk/

The RCN is looking in detail at the Government’s green paper consultation that closes in early November and as usual will help shape the crucial health decisions that will follow. Members have till the end of October to contribute to our consultation, find out more on the RCN website (www.rcn.org.uk).

Please do contact the RCN to share views with us at policycontacts@rcn.org.uk