Weekly political news round up – 24th June 2016

June 27, 2016 in News by Whitehouse

This year’s NHS Confederation conference took place last week, with key NHS figures addressing thousands of representatives in the healthcare sector. During his address, NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens informed delegates of the Government’s plan to “re-set” NHS funding in July. Mr Stevens admitted that the £8bn committed in the Spending Review was insufficient, and the NHS needed closer to £21bn extra to plug the funding black hole. He added it was unlikely any more funding will be announced and called for any additional funding to be made available to social care. Stevens reiterated that the Five Year Forward View called for between £8bn and £21bn by 2020, and since its publication social care has deteriorated and will continue to do so due to Whitehall cuts to local council budgets.

EU referendum result

The referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU has seen ‘Leave’ secure a win by a narrow margin. 51.9% of the population voted for Britain to leave the EU, with 48.1% voting to remain. In an official statement, the Prime Minister, who has led the, announced that he will resign by the Conservative Party Conference on 2nd – 5th October. The formal process of withdrawing from the EU will then begin under a new leader. The new Prime Minister will need to establish a stable Government as soon as possible in order to calm financial markets, and begin in earnest the UK’s EU exit negotiations.

The Chancellor has confirmed he will not hold an Emergency Budget in the summer, as previously speculated, but did not rule out the possibility of his successor imposing the corresponding spending cuts and tax increases later this year. Although there will be an attempt to continue the legislative agenda as outlined in the recent Queen’s Speech, it is likely that both the direct and indirect repercussions of the vote to depart the EU, and the Prime Minister’s decision to resign, will dominate the political landscape. We would also reasonably expect an incoming Prime Minister to conduct a Cabinet reshuffle, which will affect the ministerial teams at all government departments including the Department of Health.

There are questions now to be resolved over the migration status of the many thousands of EU workers in the NHS, and how the Government will recruit further workers in future. There have been suggestions from the ‘Leave’ campaign this morning that further investment promised for the NHS may not materialise – which when accompanied by potential spending cuts from an emergency budget, could worsen pressure on the health sector. This is undoubtedly speculation at present, with more certainties likely to emerge over the coming weeks.

Continence needs underlined for World Continence Week

Six blog posts have been published on NHS England’s website highlighting continence needs, as part of World Continence Week. One, by Sarah Elliott, the Regional Chief Nurse for NHS England in the South, detailed the obstacles that have been encountered in translating best practice for continence care into a clear commissioning plan for a continence pathway. She also called for “a social movement to bring about the changes we need to see that will deliver excellence in continence care services and guide people to the help they need to manage their bladder and bowel problems.”

Another post was written by Chloe Smit, a continence nurse in South East London who has also encountered continence issues herself. Chloe explained her experiences, having had pain while urinating throughout since the age of three and being repeatedly diagnosed with UTIs before receiving appropriate treatment from a urodynamics specialist. Both Chloe’s and Sarah’s posts emphasised the need to ensure individuals with continence issues know how to access appropriate and timely care.

World Continence Week also received coverage in the Express, which reported on Coloplast’s poll of adults on continence issues. The survey found that 35% of adults had “laughed so hard they had wet themselves”; while 46% would feel embarrassed to discuss continence issues with a doctor, and 27% believing incontinence only affects elderly people. Duncan Watson, director of Continence at

Coloplast, stated that “Talking about incontinence could help save the NHS money and improve people’s lives. No-one needs to suffer in silence.”

Finally, the Daily Mail gave coverage to a poll by the Urology Foundation which found that 60% of respondents would be embarrassed to talk about urinary incontinence. The article featured comments from Tamsin Greenwell, a urological surgeon at University College London, who pointed to the isolation felt by many people with continence issues and the pressure of the cost of incontinence pads.

Funding for postgraduate nursing qualifications could be scrapped

There are worries that the Government’s plans to reform healthcare education funding could also entail removing funding for postgraduate nursing qualifications from next year, which are necessary to become a health visitor, school nurse or district nurse. The Department of Health is understood to be exploring introducing loans for these qualifications – similar to the plans being considered for other nurse and midwifery courses – or using higher-level apprenticeships, funded through an employer levy. Concerns have been expressed that this could discourage nurses from pursuing further qualifications, due to the debt they may already assume from undergraduate courses.

Crystal Oldman, chief executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute, called for a debate and consultation on the proposals to avoid the “significant risk that patient safety will be compromised.” The plans have been revealed in the same week that a letter to the Prime Minister from healthcare leaders was published, calling for the plans to scrap bursaries for student nurses and midwives to be reconsidered. The letter was signed by the Royal College of Nursing, the National Union of Students, the Royal

College of Midwives, Unison and Unite, and stated that “continuing with [the plans] as they stand would be nothing short of reckless.”

Decrease in school nurses discussed at RCN conference

The Royal College of Nursing has discussed its poll on the decline in the number of school nurses at its annual conference in Glasgow, attributing the fall to the worsening of the mental health crisis among children. Following a 10% decrease in the number of school nurses since 2010 – to 2,700 nurses for 9 million pupils – 28% now work more than their contracted hours each day. 68% also stated there were too few school nurses to provide sufficient care for children and young people in their area.

39% of nurses surveyed believed they had too few resources for their work, and 30% reported spending most of their time on administrative tasks. Janet Davies, chief executive of the RCN, spoke of the issue in the context of mental health problems, saying that “Only by investing in school nursing and wider mental health services, can this crisis be tackled and children be given the best chance possible of leading happy and healthy lives.”

Chair of Health Committee tables parliamentary questions on scrapping nursing advisory unit

The Chair of the Health Select Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, has tabled several parliamentary questions scrutinising the Department of Health’s plans to scrap its nursing and midwifery advisory unit. The questions were tabled alongside the RCN’s annual congress, which voted to press for a “strong, permanent and expert” nursing voice within the Department. Dr Wollaston asked the Secretary of State for Health:

  • “what steps he plans to take to ensure nurses are consulted on his Department’s future policies after the proposed closure of the Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions policy unit in his Department”;
  • “what mechanisms he plans to put in place to ensure ministers receive impartial nursing advice after the proposed closure of the Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions policy unit from his Department”; and
  • “whether (a) staff and (b) external stakeholders were consulted on the proposal to close the

Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions policy unit in his Department.”