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UCAS reveals further fall in applications for nursing

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The number of applications to university nursing courses in England has fallen by 5,000 students on the same point last year, the admissions service UCAS reveals today.

Numbers applying to begin training in September 2018 have fallen by 14 percent compared to the 2017 cycle and by a third since 2016 – the last year where students were supported by a bursary.

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Seven hundred fewer students began training in September 2017 after changes to student funding and today’s application data suggests a second fall can be expected in September 2018 unless action is taken.

Last year, Ministers announced extra nurse training places but did not attract students to fill them. Their funding changes, including the removal of the student bursary, were intended to increase nurse numbers.

The current nursing workforce is shrinking, according to the NMC regulator, and analysis by the Royal College of Nursing shows there are at least 40,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England alone.

The College has called on Ministers to launch an urgent national campaign to encourage would-be nurse students to apply before the summer and consider introducing means-tested grants from a central funding pot within the Department of Health and Social Care.

The new figures come as hundreds of under-graduate nursing students have complained to the government-owned Student Loans Company after the body informed loan recipients that further instalments will not be paid due to overpayment errors earlier in the academic year. The RCN has asked education ministers to write off the amounts.

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Separately, the Government announced its intention in February this year to remove the bursary from post-graduate nursing students in the next academic year. The RCN has opposed the move and continues to work with parliamentarians to ensure the post-graduate route – one of the quickest ways to train a registered nurse – remains attractive and viable.

Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said:

“The continued failure of ministers to get a grip on the nurse training situation will jeopardise care for patients.

“The Government may have agreed to increase starting salaries for nurses but, in isolation, that will not be enough to bring in the tens of thousands more we need. More incentives are needed to make it as attractive as possible.

“Extra university places are only worthwhile if they are filled and the NHS gets a newly trained nurse at the end. The Government knows patients can pay a highest price when there aren’t enough nurses.

“Ministers must redouble efforts to get students into nursing courses in September this year. Across the board, nursing students must be encouraged and supported – the Government should resolve the loans fiasco and abandon its latest bursary plans.”

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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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