This week, the Government won a vote on the second reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, in what was seen as one of the first key parliamentary tests for the Government in passing the legislation through the House of Commons. No Conservative MPs opposed the Bill, and seven Labour MPs voted with the Government against the instruction of their party to vote against the Bill. Further consideration of the Bill at third reading stage is likely to provoke further debate on key issues such as restrictions on immigration from the EU and what powers will be transferred from the EU to Westminster.

Health Committee launches inquiry into shortage of nurses

The newly re-formed Health Committee has launched its first inquiry, looking at the shortage of nurses in England. The committee highlights statistics published by the Nursing and Midwifery Council in July 2017 which found that more nurses are now leaving its register than joining; it also pointed out that there have been frequent reports of increasing vacancy rates and a lack of incentives to join the profession. The terms of reference request evidence on “the current and future scale of the shortfall of nursing staff and whether the Government, arms-length bodies, NHS, community and specialist providers and other partners have effective plans in place to recruit, train and retain this vital workforce.”

The inquiry will also look at the impact of new routes into nursing, including student funding reforms, the Apprenticeship Levy, Nurse First and nursing associates. The committee would like to “receive suggestions for how policymakers could optimise the potential of new routes into nursing, as well as how they might retain and deploy existing staff more effectively.” The effects of Brexit and language testing will also be explored.

RCN publishes response to NMC consultation on pre-registration nurse education standards

The RCN has published its response to the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s consultation on pre-registration nurse education standards. The RCN surveyed 7,380 members online and invited more than 600 to participate in 18 workshops. The response focused on the broader standards rather than specific elements of practice, and supported the NMC’s ambition for all nurses to be able to complete full assessments of patients regardless of their field of practice. It also praised the consultation’s attempts to reduce “unwarranted variation” in the pre-registration of nurses across the four fields.

Contributions to the response noted areas for improvement in the standards, with the RCN’s Children and Young People forum highlighting that training on “elimination: normal, assisted, urostomy, stoma care” was missing from the standards. The response called for continuing professional development to continually update skills and knowledge among the workforce. The RCN’s Head of Professional Learning and Development, Dr Anne Corrin, said that the College’s response noted “the importance of investing in the current nursing workforce to ensure these new standards can be fully implemented in practice” in addition to ensure that nursing can respond to future needs.

Health unions demand 3.9% pay rise for NHS staff

14 health unions have called on the Government to give NHS staff a 3.9% pay rise and an £800 bonus, at a cost of £2.5 billion, on the back of the lifting of the 1% pay cap for police officers and prison workers. In a statement on Tuesday, the Government announced that these groups of workers would receive at least a 1.7% pay rise, but did not comment on other public sector workers. While it is anticipated that the Autumn Budget will address this to some degree, the letter calls for the Government to take action to address recruitment and retention problems.

The letter was signed by unions including the Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Midwives, but not by the British Medical Association, which represents doctors. Sara Gorton, head of health at Union, said “NHS staff and their families need a pay award that stops the rot and starts to restore some of the earnings that they have been missing out on.” The chief executive of the NHS Confederation, Niall Dickson, warned that any pay increases should be funded through additional money for the NHS rather than from existing budgets – as was the case for a recent increase in schools funding, taken from elsewhere in the Department for Education’s budget.