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.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Dealing with Dementia...

Last week, the Alzheimer’s Society released an eye-opening report about the care received by people with dementia in our hospitals. Some of the 700,000 individuals living with dementia in Britain today experience an unacceptable variation in the quality of care and the number of those who suffer from the illness is expected to rise significantly over the next few years.

The report studied the responses of carers, nurses and ward managers. The results are clear - patients with dementia stay in hospital for longer periods of time, which in turn has a detrimental effect not only on their general health, but also on their dementia.

54% of carers said that being in hospital had a detrimental effect on the symptoms of dementia and 47% said that patients’ health was negatively affected by their hospital stay.

A huge proportion of nurses will at some point care for a patient with dementia, but most do not feel able to properly care for these patients.

In our general election manifesto, the RCN has been bold in making improved care for people with long-term conditions one of our key priorities. We are calling on all political parties to guarantee that anyone suffering from an illness like dementia gets the specialist nursing care they require. Patients suffering from dementia should be cared for by experts who know how best to look after their patients and who understand what treatments are needed. Numerous reports have shown that patients who recieve this level of care have fewer complications and rarely need to be readmitted on a regular basis.

Dementia is an illness which touches almost everyone. The ticking time-bomb of an ageing population and increased demands on the health service means that now is the time to invest in better training for all nurses if every patient is to be given the quality of care they deserve.

See the report: http://alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/download_info.php?downloadID=356

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The future of nursing...

This week I had the real pleasure of launching the RCN Student Bus. The bus will travel across the UK from university to university promoting nursing as a career and giving advice to those already focused on our profession.

The UK’s nursing students deserve all the support and assistance we can give, not least because 200,000 nurses are due to retire in the next decade.

No one denies the difficult balance between the huge cost of studying and the amount of work required. It’s no surprise that a quarter of student nurses drop out of their studies because of financial worries.

Despite all the challenges, nursing is one of the most rewarding careers on the planet; a job in which a person has to use their heart as well as their head.

No other career offers the sheer possibility and potential, the huge range of specialisms and the very special feeling that you have made a real difference.

It’s clear from the work the RCN has been undertaking and conversations that I’ve had with students that we need to properly support those seeking to become nurses.

In England, the bursary system is wholly inadequate and often means students have to get second jobs, which directly impacts how much time they can spend studying. The RCN has consistently called for a liveable, non means tested bursary of £12,000 for every nursing student so that they can get the support they deserve.

As our population gets older and healthcare demands increase, we will need more and more nurses. Any government wishing to improve the healthcare provisions of the future must look at the problems faced today.
At the launch of the bus I met a number of dynamic, hopeful and energetic people hoping to become the UK’s next generation of nurses. We need to be as keen to help them as they are to help patients.

You can follow the RCN Student Bus on Twitter @RCNStudentBus. If you see it on the road, tell us – there are prizes to be won…

Monday, 2 November 2009

The Swine Flu vaccine

On Monday, I visited the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London to receive the swine flu vaccination. I cannot emphasise enough that the vaccine is safe and has been thoroughly tested. Unlike other flu jabs, the virus is ‘inactivate’ so there is no risk of getting flu from the vaccine.

The pandemic has already affected thousands across the UK and as winter temperatures set in, these numbers will undoubtedly go up. Many of us could be affected by the virus and not simply by becoming ill ourselves, but by seeing family members and friends trying cope with the symptoms.

For healthcare staff, I believe that it’s particularly important that they take up the vaccine. Staff run the risk of coming in contact with the virus or of passing it on to patients. So, for the benefit of both professionals and patients, it’s crucial that our workforce is fighting fit to deal with whatever lies ahead.

I’ve been shocked to hear healthcare workers tell me that they will consider the vaccination programme successful if just half the supplies get used. Whilst getting the vaccine is of course a matter of personal choice, I urge people to weigh up the very real benefits. Now is the time for preparation and action by health staff for patients.

Our health service is all about striving for the best for patients and I know that health workers are dedicated to giving their all for vulnerable patients. The nursing profession is about care, protection and dignity; to offer this we need a ready and robust workforce.