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, 25 October 2010

The blog below was originally published on the Frontline First website. Please visit to join in this crucial campaign.

I’m writing this blog having just travelled back from the Conservative Party Conference, where the RCN’s response to the White Paper was a hot topic of discussion.

As many of you will have already seen, the RCN has enjoyed a high profile with the health media over the last two days. I believe this is a testament to how respected and important your voice has become.

We issued our response to the hugely important White Paper on Monday and it’s fair to say it was an honest, frank and intelligent reaction to the radical proposals planned for the NHS. We welcomed the principles in the Paper, such as the drive towards a patient centred health service, greater control for health professionals and more available information on providers and clinicians.

However, all radical changes come with risk; the White Paper is no exception. Couple this with the fact that the NHS in England is being asked to save £20bn by 2014 and the changes look even harder to implement successfully.

One of our biggest concerns relates to the sheer importance of piloting the many proposals within the White Paper. If £80bn is to be handed over to GPs for the commissioning of services, we think it essential that this model is at least piloted to see if it will work.

Then of course there is nurse leadership, which is noticeably absent from the White Paper. The role of the nurse has changed dramatically in the last 15 years, with large numbers taking on important responsibilities for the financial health of organisations. With the planned abolition of PCTs and SHAs, we are very concerned as to what nurse leadership will look like post-White Paper, as these structures have allowed nurses to progress up the career ladder.

If you want more information, you can read our full response and its executive summary from our dedicated White Paper micro-site, as well as watching a video blog with our Head of Policy, Howard Catton.

Despite our concerns relating to the proposals, we can be proud of how loud the nursing voice has been this week and how much it has been heard. Much of this is down to you; through this website you told us what you thought of the changes, and we listened.

The months ahead will be critical for the future of the NHS and thanks to your input and expertise we will ensure that nursing is at the very heart of the debate.

Thank you.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Saving money, cutting waste

My most recent blog can be found on the 'Frontline First' website talking about cutting waste in the NHS. Please visit www.rcn.org.uk/frontlinefirst for more information.

We know that the NHS is being asked to make billions of pounds of ‘efficiency savings’ over the next few years. The RCN is clear that it is essential these ‘efficiency savings’ do not have a negative impact on standards of patient care.

We believe that the key to saving money is cutting waste. Waste is rife amongst too many parts of the NHS, however we can take very practical steps to cut this back. This is where we need you.

This campaign is all about finding out what’s really happening where you work and where you think improvements need to be made. Already, hundreds of you have written in to speak out about waste. Your evidence is helping us gather the knowledge we need to make the NHS more efficient and to protect jobs.

A number of trends are emerging across the UK. Many of you have pointed out simple practices that waste money, such as ordering medication or dressings which go unused, or leaving electrical equipment plugged in unnecessarily which runs up expensive electricity bills.

There are also examples of IT systems that make nurses and healthcare assistants’ lives harder rather than easier and administration systems that don’t offer the level of support staff need. In many cases these systems are keeping you away from where you need to be – with patients.

We know that these are only some of the many examples of waste that exist and we need your help in identifying more. Nursing staff like you are often best-placed to see what’s happening at the heart of the NHS. We will use your evidence to highlight where money can be saved without damaging frontline care.

Together we can stamp out waste, protect services and improve care.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

This is only the beginning

My latest blog outlines the importance of nurses' participation in our latest campaign, 'Frontline First'. To find out more, visit http://frontlinefirst.rcn.org.uk

We’re already starting to see trends emerge, with a number of organisations putting freezes on recruitment, down banding staff and/or asking specialist nurses to forgo their practice and work in general settings for set periods.

However, with the information that you give us, we can take this data and use it to bring local decision makers to account. We can use what you share with us to force health organisations to justify their decisions and explain their efficiency savings. Do not think for a moment that you don’t have the power to change what’s happening where you work – you do; we just have to make sure we do it together.

So, if you haven’t yet shared your experiences, do it today. If you’ve already told us what you know, share this site with your friends and colleagues and get them to tell us their experiences.

Together, we can put the Frontline First.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Back to the blogosphere

After a long break, I’m returning to the blogosphere. Many things have changed since I last blogged, but top of the health agenda are the plans the new government has for the NHS.

The College welcomes the pledge of the coalition government to put patients at the heart of the NHS. Patient safety and the patient experience must always come first in the face of public sector efficiencies.

The Health Secretary has already set out his ideas for “patient-centred care”, with a number of ideas for achieving this already in the pipeline.

One plan is to penalise hospitals if patients are readmitted 30 days after discharge. While it is clearly desirable that hospitals only discharge patients when it is safe to do so, it is important to stress that reasons for readmission can be complex. Hospitals must also become responsible for better integration of community and acute health to ensure a more holistic approach to care.

It is also crucial that nurse-led services, such as specialist clinics are not lost as these often provide cost effective solutions for preventing re-admissions. The government must ensure that there are sufficient resources to enable these high standards of care to continue.

Andrew Lansley has revealed that there will be a real term increase in funding for the NHS for the next five years, although the RCN believes that this is unlikely to keep up with the demand for services. We know that the current economic situation means that the reality for the NHS and all public services is that we will have to do more with less. This will mean increasing productivity and reducing waste. More will of course become clear in the Emergency Budget on 22nd June…

We welcome further details as plans for the Health Service unfold. High quality care must always be the standard for the NHS and staff need support in terms of resources, training and time to ensure that the patient experience is always a positive one.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The value of specialist nurses

At the RCN we understand the value of specialist nurses. We’re clear about their economic benefits and the overwhelmingly positive impact they have on patient care. So we’re delighted to be launching a report that sets out the reasons why investing in specialist nurses is crucial not just to patients but to reducing costs to the NHS.

Time and again studies highlight the benefits of specialist nurses, including reducing unnecessary re-admissions, the length of hospital stays and the number of post-operative complications that patients suffer.

Specialist nurses were one of the groups hardest hit by the deficits crisis in the NHS in 2005/06. As we head towards another period of constrained funding, we must ensure these healthcare experts are not targeted in the inevitable drive for efficiencies. If you haven’t already, you can show your support for specialist nursing by signing up to the ‘Nursing counts’ campaign today. We’re calling for every patient with a chronic or long-term condition to have the right to specialist nursing care.

Despite the impact that these nurses have on the patient experience, there are worrying signs that history could repeat itself.

The RCN surveyed the UK’s leading health charities and almost 60% said that they were worried that specialist nursing posts would be subject to cutbacks in the ‘near future’. Perhaps more worryingly, over a third (37%) told us that they have already seen evidence of reductions in the funding of specialist nurse posts in the last twelve months.

At this defining moment, we have a real choice in front of us – do we sit back and allow these critically important healthcare professionals to suffer familiar cutbacks and redundancies, or do we take a stand and speak up for what we know is right? We need your continued support, if you’ve already signed up to the campaign you can send it to your friends and family.

So far, over 2,000 people have already sent emails to another 8,000 – ensuring our voice grows louder by the day. You can view our latest film, in which we hear from specialist nurses and the people who they help. People like Lillian, whose husband Tim has suffered from Parkinson’s disease for 30 years, says how she doesn’t know how she’d be able to cope without Carolyn, the specialist nurse.

These stories are not unique, they’re replicated all over the UK and millions of people know how important specialist nursing care can be. You can watch the film from the front page of this website.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Our time is now

Two weeks ago we launched our ‘Nursing Counts’ campaign and in the last fortnight, the response has been nothing short of fantastic. As I write this, over 80,000 people have watched our General Election film on both the RCN homepage and the dedicated website, almost 17,500 have signed up to our priorities and our Facebook page has over 2,700 fans.

This is exactly the sort of start that the campaign needed, but we mustn’t stop here. In order for the nursing voice to ring out loud and clear through the corridors of Westminster and beyond, we have to get as many people to speak up as possible. Our ‘Nursing Counts’ campaign will only be as strong as those willing to stand up for patients, nursing and healthcare.
This is where you come in.

Email this page to your friends, mention it in conversations, ask them to sign up, spread the word on Facebook, tweet the links and send in your photos. Our healthcare service stands at a cross roads, we can either chose to limit public spending and compromise patient care, or invest in services that we know deliver results and save lives.

Only last week we saw the latest figures on just how many people suffer from dementia in the UK, a figure that will keep on rising. When a person is diagnosed with dementia, the onus isn’t on the latest medicine or technological advancement, it’s on delivering long term care that will manage the symptoms and improve a lifestyle. This sort of care is delivered by nurses, sometimes in a hospital but more often than not in the patient’s home. The RCN is calling for all those suffering from long term conditions to be guaranteed specialist nursing care.

Our healthcare services will change over the next ten years, there will be more, not less, demand on those providing care. Do we want to cutback and reduce job numbers when we know what lies ahead? Or do we want to take this moment to invest in services that we know will be needed like never before? We must stand up and speak out against any future cuts, we must defend the rights of patients and promote the work of our nursing family.

I know that all of us have conflicting demands and a huge number of things on our to do list, but please, take five minutes to spread the word and start something incredible – our time is now.

Please visit http://generalelection.rcn.org.uk/ to show your support.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Politics counts, votes count, nursing counts.

The next General Election is going to matter; not just to your working life as a nurse but also to the lives of your patients. The coming months will see politicians of all parties set out their vision for the care of future generations.

Whatever happens over the next few weeks, the nursing voice must be heard. It's becoming clearer and clearer that after this election, in this new decade; fundamental decisions about the future of healthcare will be taken.

With an average of over 1,800 nurses and healthcare assistants living and voting in each constituency, parliamentary candidates and political parties know that the nursing family is one they cannot afford to ignore.

Whether or not you have a politician knocking on your door, it is up to us as nurses to make our voices heard in the debates over the future of the health service.

To recognise the sheer importance of this election, we have launched our ‘Nursing counts' campaign and with it, this exciting new website. From this site you'll be able to sign up to our manifesto pledges, send them on to friends and family, upload photos, watch our latest films and interact with Twitter and Facebook.

Nurses represent one of the largest and most significant voting blocs in the UK, if we use our voice to stand up for quality care, for sustained investment and for the bright future that we know patients deserve, we will make a difference.

Politics counts, votes count, nursing counts.

Get active now, visit www.rcn.org.uk/generalelection

Friday, 8 January 2010

Save the NHS from alcohol abuse

This ‘Comment is Free’ article appeared today on the Guardian website:

We desperately need clearer labelling, tighter laws and better education to tackle the spiralling costs of excessive drinking.

In a seemingly unrelenting stream, new evidence highlights just how serious the nation's problem with alcohol has become. It has been estimated that the number of people being admitted to hospital as a result of alcohol abuse is rising by 80,000 a year, costing the NHS about £2.7bn annually. As the NHS Confederation highlighted last week, if this does not change, the NHS will soon be constrained by financial demands it simply cannot meet.

As well as causing extreme physical and psychological damage to those who drink to excess, alcohol abuse is putting undue pressure on already overstretched frontline healthcare professionals. Nurses, particularly in A&E, are faced with tremendous time pressures and difficult decisions everyday. The fact that more and more people are being admitted to A&E as a result of drinking themselves into a stupor, makes an already tough job even harder.

As anyone who has ever acted as designated driver will know, drunk people are often irrational and illogical. This makes the treatment process even longer than usual. The effects of alcohol can also mask serious problems, such as concussion as a result of a head injury, making the need for thorough investigation even greater. And then of course there's the fact that intoxicated patients often arrive in A&E accompanied by their fellow revellers. While supporting a friend is obviously no bad thing, the arrival of large parties of drunk people in a hospital can be disruptive and intimidating. This not only affects staff, but can create a fraught environment for the other patients arriving in A&E with life-threatening conditions.

Some commentators have argued that those being admitted to hospital with self-inflicted problems, like alcohol misuse, should pay for their treatment. We have always maintained that healthcare should be free at point of delivery for everyone. The widespread alcohol misuse we see today is the result of a historically permissive attitude towards drinking on the part of society as a whole. It is nothing less than an overhaul of the attitudes and habits of society that we need now. But the government does have a role to play in supporting everyone to live healthier lives.

Today the health select committee's inquiry into alcohol has published a report calling for tougher measures to curb the rising numbers of people suffering, or even dying, as a result of alcohol. It also highlights the importance of listening to what those on the frontline have to say about excessive drinking.

As we approach the general election, all political parties must accept the need to take urgent action to stop this dire problem spiralling even further out of control. The Royal College of Nursing is calling for a single mandatory code to ensure the alcohol industry and retailers are properly regulated and socially responsible. There needs to be clearer labelling to ensure consumers realise how much they are drinking, as well as tighter regulation on the advertising and sales of alcohol.

There also need to be more widespread campaigns, using all available channels including social networking, to ensure that everyone realises just how serious excessive drinking can be. Attitudes towards smoking have changed, and so society's attitude to alcohol can too. There needs to be a cultural shift towards safer drinking, especially among younger people, to help the NHS and to improve the health of the nation.

You can visit Guardian comment is free here http://bit.ly/8awvMW