The UK’s largest professional nursing organisation supports an opt-out system of consent for organ and tissue donation after death across the UK.
Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members agree that there are not enough registered donors and a significant majority believe that an opt-out system could help increase the number of organs available.
Organ donation rates have increased significantly in the last decade but the shortage of donors means hundreds of people die waiting for transplants each year.
The RCN’s Professional Nursing Committee, which took the decision on the College’s new position, backed members’ calls for any opt-out to come with resourcing, evaluation and clear conditions attached to how it operates. These would include limiting the opt-out to adults, putting in place awareness and education programmes in advance of any changes and engaging with families in the process.
More than in seven in ten nursing staff – of the 7,700 members who responded – supported a move to the opt-out system. The RCN surveyed members in all UK countries for its first consultation on the issue for almost a decade. In each country of the UK, a clear majority of members supported an opt-out.
Only one in ten nursing staff believe their patients have given much thought to donating organs and tissues after death and 89 per cent of RCN members agreed that not enough people donate their organs and tissue.
Legislation to introduce opt-outs in England and Scotland are being debated over 2018. A private member’s Bill in Westminster – that received initial parliamentary support in February – would bring England into line with Wales where a soft opt-out system of consent for organ and tissue donation was introduced in 2015. Scotland is expected to introduce similar legislation in the next few months. Legislation to introduce an opt-out in Northern Ireland fell in 2016, but work is underway to increase donation rates in other ways.
However, before any opt-out system is introduced, Governments must increase investment in the number of Specialist Nurses in Organ Donation, the Professional Nursing Committee of the RCN said.
Governments must launch public awareness campaigns no less than a year before any change and continue campaigning to ensure individuals know how to opt out, the Committee added as it gave ‘qualified support’ for an opt-out system of consent. Any change must also be limited to adults and routinely reviewed based on the rate of successful donations.
The RCN called for an awareness and education programme for all health care professionals and clear guidance on the operation of any opt-out scheme.
The survey also found that only 25 percent of RCN members said they felt confident enough to speak about organ donation with patients and their families.
Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “When people still die because suitable organ donors cannot be found, nursing staff agreed it was time to reopen the debate.
“Our members from across the UK have given overwhelming support to an opt-out to give countless people awaiting transplants a fighting chance, as long as clear conditions are applied.
“Where individuals feel strongly, for whatever reason, they must be supported in opting out. Where governments pursue an opt-out anywhere in the UK, we will ensure our members’ views are heard and will call for the system to be communicated clearly with the public and health professionals.”
One in six nursing associates drop out before qualifying, finds report
Despite this trainees showed “high levels of enthusiasm and commitment to the programme”.
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.
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.”
UCAS accused of having an ‘outdated’ view on nurses
They describe the nursing role to prospective students as looking after people when they are sick or injured.
UCAS describes nurses as providing “support to doctors and other medical staff”.
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has been accused of having an “outdated” view on nurses after it described the profession as providing “support to doctors and other medical staff”.
UCAS describes the nursing role to prospective students as looking after people when they are sick or injured. Adding; “You’ll provide support to doctors and other medical staff, take blood and urine samples, and in some cases, you may carry out minor surgical procedures.”
Nurses, alongside a multitude of other healthcare professionals, have taken to social media calling for the description to be amended so it “adequately reflects nursing in the 21st century”. They also criticised the article for failing to highlight a large number of health promotion and research roles frequently undertaken by the profession.
BJ Walto, a senior member of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) commented that the description is “inaccurate, demeaning and totally misleading portrayal of nursing.”
Tom Wavlin, a Lecturer in Adult Nursing & Admissions Tutor at the University of Plymouth, suggested the description could instead read; “an autonomous practitioner of nursing who works closely with other healthcare professionals”.
In comparison, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) website reads; “Registered nurses play a vital role in providing, leading and coordinating care that is compassionate, evidence-based, and person-centred. They are accountable for their own actions and must be able to work autonomously, or as an equal partner with a range of other professionals, and in interdisciplinary teams.”
A spokesperson for UCAS said; “It’s clear that our current role profile for nurses doesn’t reflect the amazing work that nurses across the country do each day, and we welcome the feedback we’ve recently received.
“We want to make sure that students considering their future options have up-to date information about all different careers available to them.
“We’re currently updating all of our job profiles and are in touch with nursing experts to help us make sure that we better reflect the roles and responsibilities of nurses today.”
UPDATE (17/10/19 09:55): This article was updated to include a comment from UCAS.
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