Weekly political news round up – 24th March 2017

Overview

Members of the Welsh Assembly have tabled amendments to the Public Health (Wales) Bill this week, including to the provisions requiring local authorities to produce strategies for the provision of public toilets. Shadow Minister for the Environment and Planning, Angela Burns, tabled an amendment which would require the Welsh Government to publish a national toilets strategy, while UKIP AM Caroline Jones tabled an amendment which would require ministers to guarantee “adequate provision” of public toilets in Wales.

In other news, Department of Health has published its annual mandate to NHS England, reiterating that the NHS will receive £10 billion more above inflation by 2020-21 than in 2014-15 and calling on the NHS to deliver “concrete progress” on the STPs.

Meanwhile, it emerged that Health Education England will cut national funding for workforce development again this year, meaning employers and hospitals will have less to spend on continuing professional development training for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals; and the Liberal Democrats passed a motion at their spring conference calling for an “NHS Passport” to protect the rights of EU citizens in the NHS.

Finally, Theresa May has confirmed that she will trigger Article 50 – and thus the beginning of the Brexit process – on Wednesday 29th March. Once this occurs, the EU will respond by drawing up guidelines on its approach to the negotiations, which the remaining 27 EU countries will need to endorse at an EU summit taking place on 29th April.

AMs table amendments to Public Health (Wales) Bill

Members of the Welsh Assembly have been tabling amendments to the Public Health (Wales) Bill, including to the provisions requiring local authorities to produce strategies for the provision of public toilets.

Shadow Minister for the Environment and Planning, Angela Burns tabled an amendment which would require the Welsh Government to publish a national toilets strategy, including an assessment of the need for toilets across Wales and proposals to meet that need. Ministers would need to publish the strategy within twelve months of the Act receiving Royal Assent. A separate amendment, also tabled by Ms Burns, would require Ministers to consult any person they consider likely to be interested in the provision of public toilets in Wales before they publish the national toilets strategy.

UKIP AM Caroline Jones also tabled an amendment relating to public toilets, which would require ministers to ensure there is “adequate provision” of public toilets in Wales.

Lib Dems call on Government to guarantee EU nurses right to remain in the UK

The Liberal Democrats have passed a motion calling for an “NHS Passport” to protect the rights of EU citizens in the NHS, following a strong increase in the number of EU nurses leaving the UK’s health service. The party, which is currently holding its spring conference, cited Freedom of Information responses from 80 of the 136 NHS acute trusts, which showed that 2,700 EU nurses left the NHS in 2016 – an increase of 68% on the 1,600 EU nurses who left in 2014. Nursing and Midwifery Council figures have also shown the number of EU nurses registering to work in the UK has dropped by 92% since last July, while the Royal College of Nursing says there are 24,000 NHS nurse vacancies left unfilled.

Speaking on the motion, Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “It is vital that we reassure NHS staff and social care workers from the EU that they remain welcome and valued in the UK following Brexit. ” He added that the “NHS and care services would struggle to cope if significant numbers of doctors, nurses and NHS staff from the EU left”.

Health Minister David Mowat told the Pulse Live conference taking place in London this week that the Department of Health “unambiguously” wants GPs from the EU to stay and insisted that the Government will meet its target of 5,000 more GPs by 2020. However, he did not address the issue of EU nurses leaving the NHS or guarantee a similar approach to nurses.

Government publishes mandate to NHS England for 2017-18

The Department of Health has published its annual mandate to NHS England, setting out the Government’s objectives and requirements for NHS England, as well as its budget. The mandate was published three months later than usual due to debate between the DH and NHS England over delivery and accountability on sustainability and transformation plans (STPs), financial performance and emergency care. It reiterates that the NHS will receive £10 billion more above inflation by 2020-21 than in 2014-15 – despite this figure being contested by the health sector – and calls on the NHS to deliver “concrete progress” on the STPs.

In a foreword to the mandate, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt states that 2017-18 should be the year in which “the NHS delivers the productivity and efficiency gains necessary to maintain financial balance”. He notes that the Government has already made £325 million of capital funding available for the best STPs over the next three years and states that a further round of local proposals will be considered in the autumn.

The key objectives by which the Government will assess NHS England’s performance are:

  • Through better commissioning, improve local and national health outcomes, and reduce health inequalities.
  • To balance the NHS budget and improve efficiency and productivity.
  • To lead a step change in the NHS in preventing ill health and supporting people to live healthier lives.
  • To maintain and improve performance against core standards.
  • To improve out-of-hospital care.
  • To support research, innovation and growth.

HEE to further cut funding for post-registration nurse training

Health Education England (HEE) will cut national funding for post-registration training for nurses again this year, according to the public body’s draft budget plans. Last year, HEE reduced funding for workforce development by almost half (from £205 million in 2015-16 to £104.3 million in 2016-17), meaning employers and hospitals have less to spend on continuing professional development training for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.

HEE’s plans to further cut funding for workforce development were laid about by the body’s finance director, Steve Clarke, in a board meeting last week. Clarke did not reveal how deep the cuts will be, but said HEE will “need to make some tough decisions around workforce development”, including around funding for local workforce action boards and other groups. He also spoke of planned cuts to HEE’s £35m “transformation fund”, which is used for implementing the workforce changes needed to deliver NHS England’s 44 sustainability and transformation plans.

HEE’s budget for the financial year starting in April has not yet been finalised, as the Department of Health has not yet confirmed the amount of funding it will receive or what annual objectives it must meet. However, the DH told HEE at the end of 2015 that its annual budget would be frozen until 2020, and it is on this basis that HEE has prepared its draft plans.