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Resources and planning vital for protecting NHS, nurses say

The nursing profession, and the UK as a whole, celebrated the history of the NHS last year on its 75th birthday. However, enthusiasm for the health service’s past is matched by uncertainty about what its future will look like.

An ageing population, climate pressures and many other factors are all set to put more strain on health systems worldwide – and the NHS is no different. More patients and more demand mean longer waiting times and a workforce that is stretched further.

In this second edition of Nursing Times’ Manifesto by Nurses, which will be presented to political parties ahead of a probable 2024 general election, nurses were asked what they would like to see done to secure the NHS in the long term.

They demanded, chiefly, more resources – namely, more money, more hospitals, more people. This, nurses said, would take the health service away from a model of constant crisis and towards one of forward planning.

Several nurses aired hopes that a future government would curb, or even end, NHS privatisation, while also raising taxes to ensure more cash could be brought in to spend on a publicly funded health service.

In addition to this, nurse-specific issues such as pay, retention and staff support were common among those who spoke with us for this month’s issue of the manifesto.

Your proposals included:

  • More money for the NHS
  • Build more hospitals and clinics
  • More nurses
  • Forward thinking and long-term planning
  • Reducing privatisation
  • More 24-hour services

What you said

Rob Lewis

Rob Lewis, head of nursing workforce and education, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

Mr Lewis called for more forward thinking, planning and integration across services and government departments.

As an example, he highlighted that, in the 30 years he had been in nursing, there had always been discussion around increasing public health, but said that “it doesn’t go anywhere”.

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He suggested that introducing a 10-year plan would involve “following that plan through, keeping it going and continuously looking in advance”.

He said: “In nursing particularly, it’s very difficult to predict what’s going to happen in five years’ time. It’s [about] having a plan and reassessing that continuously.”

 

Christina Ann John, practice development nurse, King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Ms Ann John said she would like to see free, or heavily subsidised, lunches for nursing staff, as well as more support for childcare to increase retention and, in turn, safeguard the health service in the long term.

 

Sally-Ann Hosier

Sally-Ann Hosier, trainee nursing associate, East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust

More staff, more hospitals and better patient-staff ratios are needed to help the NHS keep up with a growing demand on its services, said Ms Hosier.

To do this, she said, the big two workforce issues of retention and recruitment must be addressed, along with a significant boost to infrastructure building and funding.

“We need to keep the staff we have and encourage more ways to train with incentives,” she said.

“The apprenticeship is a good way to move up the ladder but it is not advertised enough.”

She added: “The NHS needs more staff to help with the backlog.

“We need more hospitals for the ever-growing population. The [number] of patients we are squeezing into our current hospitals [and] the staff–patient ratio is unsafe and dangerous, [and it is] risking patients’ lives and staff burnout.”

She added that building more smaller clinics, as well as large-scale hospital projects, could help ease pressure on emergency services.

 

Vaughan Tessier-Varlet

Vaughan Tessier-Varlet, registered nurse, Pulse nursing agency, North East of England

“Politicians of all parties need to tell the public that they cannot have 21st-century health care on 19th-century levels of taxation. You get what you pay for,” said Mr Tessier-Varlet, who asked for political parties to commit to spending more on health and social care.

He said: “The politicians and public need to understand that most of that money is going to be spent on wages and salaries to retain what staff are left, and to make it an attractive choice for new entrants.”

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The extra funds, he said, should also be spent on improving staff changing facilities, guaranteeing breaks for nurses and creating a “functioning IT system” that would be standardised across the country.

 

Chinenye Okonkwo

Chinenye Victoria Okonkwo, registered nurse and clinical skills facilitator, East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust

Ms Okonkwo said that, for the NHS’ future to be in safe hands, all politicians who have a say over it should be forced to shadow health service staff to give them a “glimpse” of reality.

“[It] will give them an inside view of the true state of the NHS, shape their perspective and properly inform their decision making when it relates to health priorities,” she said.

“Every politician needs this experience, and it should start with shadowing frontline staff, then managers and leaders in the health sector.

“This is a way to connect to the workforce and the population. I am quite happy to have a politician or member of parliament shadow me on my job for a day.”

 

Jo Strange, NHS staff nurse, East Midlands

Ms Strange made a straightforward demand: “Stop contracting out services and stealthily privatising our NHS.”

 

Jay Dungeni

Jay Dungeni, director of equality, diversity and inclusion, and deputy chief nurse, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

Mr Dungeni said he wanted a new government to be “brave and bold” in its approach to securing the future of the NHS.

He said he would like a government to say: “It’s not about staying power for the next term, it’s about laying the foundations for what future terms – regardless of who’s in power – would look like.”

He called for the next government to introduce “strategic impact assessments” across the whole healthcare system that could help determine the best ways to measure the performance of the NHS in 5-10 years’ time. “We’re a bit too reactionary at the moment,” Mr Dungeni added.

 

Julie Williamson, intensive care sister, Royal Albert Edward Infirmary, Wigan

Ms Williamson demanded a move towards 24-hour provision for all areas of the hospital including pharmacy and scanning.

“Everything needs to be 24 hours, at least on call,” she said. “As much as I hate to say [it], Jeremy Hunt was correct – the NHS comes to a standstill at weekends and bank holidays, which is not acceptable.”

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She called for a reduction in the number of NHS management levels, stating there are “too many [people] doing the same job”.

As well as this, she said the NHS should end the practice of redeploying nurses to other parts of a hospital, adding: “Nurses choose areas of working as they have an interest in that area.

“To move someone who has only worked in intensive care to accident and emergency is downright dangerous for patients and nurses.”

She added: “There is a huge difference in specialised areas to wards and vice versa.”

 

Mike Phillips

Mike Phillips, retired NHS staff nurse, North West of England

The removal of private sector involvement in the NHS is what Mr Phillips would like to see.

He said such a move would save money from reduced bureaucracy, which could be spent on patient care.

 

Colin Coates

Colin Coates, registered NHS nurse, Norfolk

Mr Coates listed several demands from political parties, including better pay and more flexibility for older nurses approaching retirement age.

He continued: “[We need] proper funding of the NHS matched to inflation, and to stop dismantling the NHS and encouraging the ‘private’ sector.

“All the main [political] parties are just as bad as each other. [They should] stop blaming NHS workers for [problems that] are not their fault.”

 

What next?

The next chapter of our Manifesto by Nurses will focus on nurse education.

We want to know your suggestions for how nursing courses can be made more attractive while protecting quality, and what can be done to improve support for student nurses. Are there any national-level reforms that you think are needed?

Click or tap here by 26 January to get your voice heard

Alternatively, email your ideas in 300 words to nursingtimesmanifesto@gmail.com, along with your full name, job role, location and a high-resolution picture of yourself.

Please note that, by doing so, you are agreeing to be potentially named, quoted and pictured in Nursing Times, both online and in our print publications.

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