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The total number of NHS nurses falls for first time since 2013

Sarah J



Official figures have revealed that the total number of Registered Nurses has fallen for the first time since 2013.

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A study by leading thinktank, The King’s Fund, showed that in June 2016 there were 283,674 “full-time equivalent” nurses employed by the NHS in England but in June this year, there were 282,603 – a reduction of 1,071.

The King’s Fund said the figures were “worrying”, adding that having adequate nurses is “essential” for delivering safe, effective care for patients.

A combination of factors are said to be to blame; uncertainty around Brexit resulting in a “significant drop” in EU applications, the ongoing pay restraint of public sector workers and the changes to the NHS bursary system.

The King’s Fund also added that the number of NHS staff leaving as a result of ill-health and a poor work-life balance has also increased sharply, suggesting stress has been an additional cause.

The news comes only a week after the RCN called for an “urgent review” of hospital staffing levels after they warned patient safety and dignity is being put at risk by over-stretched services.

Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, responding to The King’s Fund analysis showing nurse numbers falling for the first time since 2013, said:

“The Government’s boasts of increasing nursing staff are starting to ring more than a little hollow. Since the stark warnings made by Robert Francis four years ago, Jeremy Hunt prided himself on rising numbers but this expert analysis reveals a worrying decline.

“Nursing staff are now blowing the whistle on falling standards and the risks to patients. When the NHS has never been busier, it is haemorrhaging experienced nurses at a faster rate than it can find new recruits. A lethal cocktail of extreme pressure inside the NHS, a collapse in European nurses and falling pay levels left the profession demoralised and people heading for the door.

“This analysis reinforces the need for mandated staffing levels and investment in nurse education. Health and care providers must give urgent assurances that services are safe for patients this winter. The decline is a direct result of years of poor decisions and excessive cost-cutting – we need a new law that makes Ministers and others accountable for proper workforce planning and safe and effective staffing levels.”

Last week Jeremy Hunt announced an increase in the number of training places for nurses as well as a “pay as you learn” style apprenticeship.

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NMC says regulation for nursing associates moves a step closer

James M



The Nursing and Midwifery Council say regulation for nursing associates is getting closer and is expected by July 2018.

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The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has welcomed the Department of Health’s consultation on proposed changes to its legislation to enable the regulation of nursing associates.

The consultation follows the decision of the NMC’s Council to agree to regulate the new role, following a request from the Secretary of State for Health in January 2017.

Earlier this month the NMC released it’s draft standards of proficiency for Nursing Associates.

Jackie Smith, NMC Chief Executive and Registrar, said:

“This consultation is a vital step towards the NMC becoming the regulator of nursing associates.

“It’s always been our ambition to open the register to nursing associates in January 2019, when the first trainees qualify. But in order to do so, it’s critical that Government drives through the necessary changes to our legislation, to ensure that we’re able to protect the public from the moment the first qualified nursing associates begin to practise.”

The NMC expects the necessary changes to its legislation to come into force by July 2018. This will give the regulator six months until the first trainees qualify to complete the activities that need to be in place in order to open the register. This includes approving the NMC’s Rules and fees, approval of the final nursing associate standards and approval of nursing associates programme providers.

The consultation, Regulation of Nursing Associates in England, will run from 16 October to 26 December.

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Snacks sold in hospital shops should be under 250 calories

James M



Image: Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

NHS England says snacks sold in hospitals canteens or shops should all be under 250 calories.

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NHS Hospitals will be given cash incentives to comply with a new ‘healthy eating’ campaign which will see a significant reduction in the number of sugary snacks, drinks and confectionary inside hospital shops and canteens.

The proposals will also extend to sandwiches, which must be under 400 calories, and all other pre-packed savoury meals, which should contain no more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g. Cans and bottles of sugary soft drinks are also covered by the ban, as well as sugary drinks made in cafes and canteens such as coffees with sugar syrup.

Hospital chiefs will need to ensure that 80% of items sold do not exceed the 250-calorie limit in order to receive the cash bonus.

It is unknown if this ban will extend to third-party organisations such as Costa Coffee and Starbucks.

Research has suggested that almost 700,000 of 1.3 million NHS employees are overweight or obese.

Last year, controversial expert hypnotist Steve Miller said healthcare professionals should lead the fight against the fat and wants overweight NHS staff to carry ‘I’m fat, but I’m losing it’ badges to inspire patients and colleagues.

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, said:

“The NHS is now stepping up action to combat the super-size snack culture which is causing an epidemic of obesity, preventable diabetes, tooth decay, heart disease and cancer. “In place of calorie-laden, sugary snacks we want to make healthier food an easy option for hospital staff, patients and visitors.”

NHS England has pledged to boost the sale of healthy foods and end promotions of sugary and fatty or salty foods at checkouts.

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