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Nurses support organ donation opt-out law

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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Mobile Stroke Unit will see patients receive life-saving care faster than ever

This the first time a Mobile Stroke Unit, a concept developed by the University of the Saarland in Germany, has been tested in the UK.

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Southend University Hospital is undertaking the trial of a Mobile Stroke Unit which will see patients receive life-saving care faster than ever.

The Mobile Stroke Unit, which has an onboard CT scanner and blood-testing equipment, will be staffed by stroke and imaging experts who can diagnose and start treating patients with suspected stroke at the scene.

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This the first time a Mobile Stroke Unit, a concept developed by the University of the Saarland in Germany, has been tested in the UK.

Lead Stroke Consultant at Southend, Dr Paul Guyler explains its importance: “It’s widely known that ‘time is brain’ when it comes to stroke.  When a patient is suspected to have had a stroke a CT scan is essential to allow specialists to determine whether the patient has a blood clot in the brain, a bleed in the brain or something else. 

“The scan determines the diagnosis and what treatment happens next, and the Mobile Stroke Unit brings the scanner and the clinicians to the patient.”

Should a stroke be diagnosed, life-saving clot-busting medications can be administered to the patient quicker than ever before.

The Trust was offered the opportunity, to test the specialist ambulance in the community for a short period of time.  This was made possible because of the of the strong links between Consultant Interventional Neuroradiologist Professor Iris Grunwald, who works at the Trust and also holds the post of Director of Neuroscience at Anglia Ruskin University School of Medicine, and her colleagues at the University of the Saarland, Germany who are supplying the vehicle free of charge.

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The unit will be based at Southend to ensure safety and governance standards are met and Professor Grunwald has been working with the Trust’s stroke team to put plans into place.  Anglia Ruskin University and the team will be evaluating the information collected during the project. 

Professor Grunwald said: “We know that Mobile Stroke Units work in a densely populated city through trials carried out in Germany, Norway, Australia and the USA.

“The data and learning we gather during the period the vehicle is in use will be valuable in understanding the benefits and challenges of using a Mobile Stroke Unit in a more suburban or rural area, like we have across mid and south Essex.”

While the project is limited to a three-month period, the stroke team are looking to the future and hope that the information they gather over the 12 weeks will help inform plans to develop stroke services across mid and south Essex.

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UNISON accepts 3% pay deal for Scotland

UNISON Scotland has accepted a 3% pay rise for NHS staff and demands for it to be implemented ‘without delay’.

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UNISON Scotland has accepted a 3% pay rise for NHS staff and demands for it to be implemented ‘without delay’.

During the union’s annual health conference in Brighton today, the union has said it will accept a pay deal which would secure an above-inflation 3% wage rise for the all NHS workers in Scotland and has called for it to be implemented with immediate effect.

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Two weeks ago the Scottish Government tabled a ‘draft pay remit’ which proposes NHS staff earning less than £80,000 will receive 3% increase on pay and allowances.

UNISON Scotland has today announced that they will accept this proposed deal.

Tom Waterson, Chair of the UNISON Scotland Health Committee, said: “It was UNISON’s campaign in health, and across the public sector, which convinced the Scottish government to scrap the pay cap. It has tabled a pay remit paper that says all staff earning less than £80,000 are to receive an immediate 3% increase on pay and allowances, while talks craft a Scottish version of the NHS offer currently being consulted on in England.

“UNISON Scotland accepts the offer of 3% and demands that it‘s implemented without further delay. This agreement is an important first step to securing a Scottish deal for Scottish NHS workers, and we’re determined that it will deliver for our staff and roll back the pain of austerity.

“There appears to be a view that the 2018 pay award should be held off until the NHS pay offer is concluded in England. That is not acceptable. Shona Robison, cabinet secretary for health has committed to giving NHS workers a pay rise, the government has promised 3% and UNISON won’t allow anyone to delay the implementation of that rise.”

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The pay remit is expected to be discussed over the next few days by Scotland’s health unions. If agreed it would secure a “no detriment” deal, ensuring that Scottish NHS workers would not be worse off than their English colleagues, who are currently being balloted on a pay offer in England.

UNISON says it won’t be balloting NHS Scotland members on the England offer, but has committed to do so on the final outcome of Scottish negotiations.

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‘Overworked’ healthcare assistants being expected to do the work of nurses

UNISON is calling on the government to address staffing issues so that HCAs feel properly supported and patients receive the care they deserve.

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Healthcare assistants are being expected to do the work of nurses without adequate training or proper supervision, according to survey results published today by UNISON.

Nearly two-thirds say they are being left to care for patients without enough support from doctors and nurses. The impact is that almost two in five of HCAs say they do not feel confident that those they are caring for are safe.

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The findings are based on a survey of nearly 2,000 HCAs across the UK with the majority working in hospitals, as well as in mental health, in the community and in GP practices.

More than half say they have not received adequate training for performing tasks such as dressing the wounds of patients, giving out medication and changing stoma bags.

The report also highlights how nursing and other staff shortages are to blame for nearly three-quarters of HCAs having to take on extra work, according to UNISON.

Healthcare assistants say the situation has been worse this winter (2017/18) compared to the year before. Well over half say that they have picked up extra work due to nursing or clinical staff shortages. Also, two in five say they were asked to carry out tasks without adequate training more often than last winter, and over a third said they were asked to perform tasks without supervision more frequently than last year.

Janet, a healthcare assist from Croydon, said: “Trusts are trying to make use of HCAs, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can put patients at risk. I work as a maternity support officer on a band 3. There is a divide at the trust I work for between the people that have worked there a long time and those of us that are newer to the job. People who have been in the job longer have received different training that doesn’t cover everything we’re expected to do these days. Since I started two years ago there’s more pressure on us, and we’re taking on more responsibilities.”

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UNISON is calling on the government to address staffing issues so that HCAs feel properly supported and patients receive the care they deserve.

Sara Gorton, Head of Health at UNISON, said: “Healthcare assistants are being left to fill staffing gaps and do vital tasks without recognition or reward. It’s bad for them and bad for patients.

“It is important these staff receive training for all the extra responsibilities they’re expected to take on.

“It’s clear the pressures on them to act as nurse substitutes have increased over the winter. The government needs to show they value healthcare assistants by investing in their training.”

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