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726 deaths last year sparks plea for urgent action on homelessness

Nurses say they are angry because “many of these deaths are preventable”.



Homeless Men

In 2018, 726 homeless people died across England and Wales; almost two a day.

In an open letter to the Sunday Mirror, nurses have made an urgent plea for action on homelessness after new figures show two rough sleepers died each day last year.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is calling on the Government to reverse funding cuts to addiction, mental health and other support services in order to tackle the number of preventable deaths.


The letter reads; “In a civilised society, it should be unacceptable for anyone to have to sleep on the streets, let alone die there. Yet, this week the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show us that in 2018, 726 homeless people died across England and Wales; almost two a day.

“This is a shocking indictment of the way some of the most vulnerable people in society have been left to fend for themselves.

“As homeless health nurses we work every day with those people who have no home to go to, many of whom are suffering the effects of social isolation and drug dependency. Shockingly the ONS figures also show a 55 per cent increase in those who died as a result of drug poisoning.

“Working on the streets, we meet patients, tend to wounds, deliver mental health interventions, provide welfare advice, and even cancer care, and we feel deep shame for the indignity these people are put through, in life and death.

“And we also feel anger because many of these deaths are preventable. But as nurses our hands are tied behind our backs.

“Local authority budgets have been slashed and raids on the public health grant has resulted in swingeing cuts being made to vital drug and alcohol addiction services and mental health support, which we nurses know can be the difference between staying off the streets, and staying alive whilst on them.

“On top of this, there are more than 40,000 nursing vacancies in England alone and the training nurses need to specialise in homeless health is underfunded and not specified.”

“It’s clear that despite more people finding themselves on the streets – this year a record high in the capital – the support made available isn’t even close to matching demand.

“But this is not just about meeting people’s needs once they end up on the street, the goal should be to eliminate rough sleeping completely.

“As nurses we believe that housing equals health, and that a safe, secure home, whether that be social housing, or supported accommodation for those who are vulnerable, makes for a happy and healthier life.

“That’s why The Royal College of Nursing voted this year to pressure the government to end the homeless health crisis. We believe this is not just a moral necessity, but also one that can save the NHS and local authorities money in the long term.


Safe staffing and equality have been an issue since the start

Parliament passed the Nurses Registration Act in 1919.



State registered nurse

A new exhibition charts the history of nursing from the Nurses Registration Act to modern-day.

In the centenary year of nurse registration, a new exhibition charts the history of the journey from the Nurses Registration Act in 1919 through to the modern-day.

Called ‘Wake up Slackers! The great nursing registration controversy’ the exhibition looks at the heated arguments around the official registration of nurses through the first registration of men, overseas nurses and one of the first nurses to be struck off.


The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) was just three years old when registration first happened and securing this had been part of its founding ambitions.

The exhibition shows how many of the discussions and controversies of the past, including safe staffing, continue today and influence many of the discussions around modern nursing.

The Nurses Registration Act.

The exhibit contains artefacts from the RCN archive including invites to member meetings to discuss the College’s proposals for state registration, House of Commons Parliamentary debates during the year the Nurses Registration Act was passed in 1919, as well as drafts of legislation.

Opening during Black History Month, the exhibition also showcases the story of Eva Lowe, one of the first known black nurses on the register. Research shows how, despite being well qualified she was rejected many times before finding employment. It shows how she received vague and unsatisfactory excuses for her rejection, some based on false concern for her welfare.

As well as letters and documents from the RCN’s own archive, the exhibition will also feature items loaned from other collections such as that of the regulator the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Are nurses born or made?

Frances Reed, Events and Exhibitions Co-ordinator at the Royal College of Nursing said: “It is incredible today to think that 100 years ago there were arguments about whether or not nurses should be registered.

“Today it seems unthinkable for somebody with such responsibility for the welfare of patients not to be registered and yet there were strident clashes over it, despite other health professions securing regulation well before nursing.

“The story of the first black nurse on the register, Eva Lowe is important to highlight too. There is little known about black nurses whose names are on the very early 1920s registers.  It is essential we recognise that their contribution to health care existed well before Windrush.

“It’s also particularly striking to see how hard Eva Lowe had to fight to become the first black nurse on the register, and how 100 years later racial inequalities still exist in the health and care system.

The exhibition runs at RCN HQ in Cavendish Square, London 17 October – 20 March 2020

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One in six nursing associates drop out before qualifying, finds report

Despite this trainees showed “high levels of enthusiasm and commitment to the programme”.



Group of nurses in meeting

Only 65% of trainee nursing associates said they planned to work as a nursing associate once qualified.

An independent evaluation of the nursing associate role commissioned by Health Education England (HEE) has found that while there are “high levels of enthusiasm and commitment to the programme”, one in six nursing associates are dropping out before completing the course.

Attrition rates for trainee nursing associates fell slightly below that of student nurses, with 18% leaving before completing the course.


While ill health and personal issues were some of the most common reasons for leaving the programme, nearly a quarter (23%) withdrew because they failed to meet the academic requirements of the programme – with numeracy skills cited as a key issue.

One trainee said they found the “attitudes towards the role and the negative feedback about Nursing Associates” challenging.

Only 65% of trainees said they intend to continue working as a nursing associate once qualified as the programme is often seen as a stepping stone to becoming a registered nursing.

Highlighting challenges.

Mark Radford, Chief Nursing Officer, Health Education England said the report “highlights some challenges that we must address to ensure that students such as ensuring the quality and oversight of placements, attrition and numeracy support.”

“We also recognise that further work and research is required to ensure that the profession is supported and utilised in the workforce of health and social care as part of the MDT. I am pleased to be able to report that we are in the process of identifying candidates to be considered as NA ambassadors across England.

Commenting on the report, Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive and Registrar for the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), said; “Having had the pleasure of meeting many nursing associates across the country, I am continually inspired by their enthusiasm and dedication for providing care and they should be very proud of the difference they make for the people they support.”

“I look forward to seeing how nursing associates continue to develop and be supported in their work, long into the future.”

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