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The public health improvements wanted by nurses

With an ageing population, the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic, increases in other infectious diseases and a struggling NHS, the topic of public health is a key one for the next government.

For the latest chapter of our Manifesto by Nurses, we asked for nurses’ views on the public health policies they want to see from politicians ahead of the probable 2024 general election.

The most commonly cited call to action was for measures to tackle the spread of misinformation about vaccinations, particularly on social media.

It comes as a decline in uptake of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination in recent years has led to outbreaks of measles, which was previously eliminated in the UK. Misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccination has also been rife and meant some people refused the jab.

Nurses going into schools to speak to students about immunisation was one suggestion put forward.

School pupils could also benefit from nurse-led sexual health education, according to one nurse who was also a teacher.

Other ideas were put forward that focused on empowering the public to protect their health and to plan for their future care needs.

There was also a need to address the social issues that contribute to ill health, such as poverty, nurses urged.

Once complete, Nursing Times plans to deliver our Manifesto by Nurses to the political parties that are seeking to form the next UK government.

Your proposals at a glance: 

  • Counter vaccination misinformation
  • Free exercise programmes
  • Better pandemic preparation
  • Nurse-led sexual health education
  • More routine health screening
  • Stricter regulations on food industry
  • More future care planning

 

What you said

 

Tunde Jeremiah Aduragbemi

Tunde Jeremiah Aduragbemi

Tunde Jeremiah Aduragbemi, radiology staff nurse, North West of England

Mr Aduragbemi felt more needed to be done to change the public perception of smoking to further reduce smoking rates, warning: “It is an endemic social habit that needs to be looked at.”

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On vaccination, he called for dedicated public health campaigns, which are targeted at low-uptake groups such as those from Asian and African backgrounds.

More broadly, he wanted to see programmes geared towards promoting healthy eating and increasing youth participation in exercise and sporting activities. He urged the government to invest in more green and open spaces where people could walk and exercise.

 

Antoinette Elizabeth Gaillies Codd, teacher and nurse, Harlow College and Princess Alexandra NHS Trust, Essex

She said a greater presence of nurses in schools could help to improve vaccination rates. “Immunisations can be increased by nurses going into schools and discussing diseases and immunisations with teachers and parents and pupils […], and giving links to the information online [and] being prepared to discuss disinformation online,” she said.

In addition, she suggested that midwives should discuss immunisation with pregnant women from their first appointment together to address any questions they may have.

Ms Codd also wanted to see sexual health nurses going into schools to educate pupils on sexual health, noting that “it is not being taught well in schools”.

Other suggestions from Ms Codd included stricter requirements on the food industry to consider public health, and reducing the number of preservatives and additives in products.

 

Valerie Robinson, NHS nurse, East Midlands

Ms Robinson made a plea for social media use to “stop”, as she was concerned about its effect on children and young people’s health and wellbeing.

She said mothers needed better access to “reliable” education about vaccinations to counter misinformation.

Reducing waits for NHS care was also cited by Ms Robinson as being key for public health. She suggested that patients could be offered vouchers for private healthcare if they would have to wait longer than three weeks for help from the NHS. “Ill health, when it happens, will not have time to fester. Then it is cheaper to solve,” she said.

Regarding Covid-19, Ms Robinson urged: “Continue to protect the vulnerable.”

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Sarah Cosmos

Sarah Cosmos

Sarah Cosmos, retired nurse adviser to care homes, South East of England

Ms Cosmos wanted to see more people supported to document their future care wishes, for example, through the ReSPECT (Recommended Summary Plan for Emergency Care and Treatment) process.

“The most emotionally challenging aspect of my 36-year NHS nursing career was witnessing patients suffer multiple hospital admissions, mainly due to the health professionals and families fear of being seen not to care,” she said.

“Those of us who have nursed such patients understand how a hospital conveyance can negatively impact their physical and cognitive health.”

 

Sarah Daines, student mental health nurse, East Sussex

“Preventative measures in health promotion rather than a cure needs prioritising,” said Ms Daines.

She added: “Encourage practices that maintain and promote wellbeing rather than treating issues/health conditions when they arise due to our lifestyle in the UK and other Western cultures that do not support people’s health and wellbeing.”

The mental health student nurse also called for more “kindness” and “compassion” between people in society in order to support better public health.

 

Adebukola Lawal, nurse, London

Adebukola Lawal

Adebukola Lawal, emergency department staff nurse, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust

“The NHS needs a complete transformation, with more focus on [ill] health prevention and supported self-management,” urged Ms Lawal.

She said more education was needed for the public on staying well, which would relieve pressure on the health service.

 

Chris Rumney, paediatric nurse educator, Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Ms Rumney had one demand: “Extend [the] age that women are automatically contacted for routine mammogram from [50 to] 71 years to [50 to] 80.”

 

Suzanne Freeman, practice nurse, South East of England

Her suggestions included educating the public via social media to “help address myths and misinformation relating to vaccines”.

She also wanted healthy food made cheaper and for vouchers for fruit, vegetables and grains to be made available to those on reduced incomes. Similarly, Ms Freeman wanted to see free exercise schemes for people who struggle with activity.

She also called for action to “address the social issues that lead to poor health – poverty, food scarcity, lack of space, time and energy to cook healthy meals or exercise”.

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Mojirade Odeleye

Mojirade Odeleye

Mojirade Odeleye, registered nurse, East of England

Better preparation for pandemics was the call to action from Ms Odeleye, noting that evidence from the UK Covid-19 inquiry suggested there was “no policy nor plans in place for such pandemic”.

“A review of previous plans should be done involving researchers and all sectors of healthcare professionals, and that will put in place robust plans and strategies to follow before, during and after pandemics,” she said.

“When there is news about a pandemic from any country, measures should be taken immediately, adequate provision should be made to healthcare providers and public health to safeguard the country, and such policies and procedures should be made public.”

 

Sally Larkin

Sally Larkin

Sally Larkin, student nurse in Sheffield, previously an NHS project support officer

Ms Larkin said social media platforms could do more to address misinformation about vaccinations and Covid-19.

Also on vaccinations, she said more research could be conducted to understand why vaccination uptake was lower in certain communities, with findings used to develop “effective communications and information to encourage uptake”.

 

What next?

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

we want to know your ideas for how the next government can help the health and social care sectors achieve their net-zero ambitions.

What are the national-level changes that could be rolled out to dramatically reduce the impact of healthcare on the environment?

Are there any other policies that you can think of that will make it easier for nurses to make their practice greener?

To provide your ideas for the sustainability chapter, click or tap here to take part before Monday, 25 March.

Alternatively, send your send your ideas in no more than 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.

 

 

Download a PDF of the public health chapter below. 

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