Weekly political news round up – 30th June 2017

Overview

The Government has published a policy paper containing proposals on how EU citizens living in the UK will be able to remain in the country after Brexit, with suggestions that an online application process will give applications “indefinite leave to remain”. The EU was sceptical in its response to the proposals, with the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier saying that “more ambition, clarity and guarantees needed than in today’s UK position.” The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health noted the number of EU nationals working in child health within the NHS, and said that “a simple assurance that their right to work in the UK will be protected, and their conditions secured, would be immeasurably helpful.”

DUP agree deal to support Conservatives in government

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) have come to an agreement with the Conservatives to support the Government in key House of Commons votes, enabling the Conservatives to form a minority government. The conditions of the deal state that the DUP:

  • Has agreed to support the Government in votes of confidence, the Queen’s Speech, the Budget and other financial matters.
  • Will support the Government on Brexit legislation and legislation concerning national security, but that all other issues will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

In exchange, the Conservatives have agreed to:

  • Preserve Winter Fuel Payments and the pensions ‘triple lock’ – a change to the Conservative manifesto.
  • Recognise the importance of agriculture in Northern Ireland – particularly in the context of Brexit negotiations – and sustain subsidies to farmers until the next general election.
  • Provide Northern Ireland with £1 billion of additional funding to spend on infrastructure, health and education over the next two years.

Speaking outside Downing Street, DUP leader Arlene Foster said the agreement would “operate to deliver a stable government in the United Kingdom’s national interest at this vital time”. On the additional spending, she praised the Conservatives for having “recognised the case for higher funding in Northern Ireland, given our unique history and indeed circumstances over recent decades.” Mrs May stated that the deal was “very good one” for Britain, and that the Conservatives and the DUP “share many values in terms of wanting to see prosperity across the UK”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said that the deal is “not in the national interest”, and has demanded that “cuts to vital public services must be halted right across the UK, not just in Northern Ireland”. The agreement is designed to remain in place for the duration of the parliament, but will be reviewed at the end of each parliamentary session. Given that there will be no Queen’s Speech in 2018, the first review will likely be in spring 2019. With the support of the DUP, this agreement gives the Conservatives an effective majority of 13 in the House of Commons.

Vote on public sector pay cap defeated in House of Commons

Pressure has grown this week for the Government to end the 1% pay cap for public sector workers, culminating in a vote on an amendment to the Queen’s Speech tabled by Labour being defeated. Cabinet Ministers included the Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon and the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling spoke of the need to ease the cap in the media in the days before the vote, leading to contradictory briefings from Downing Street which eventually confirmed that the Government’s position on the pay cap “has not changed.” The Chancellor had also said after the election that the Government is “not deaf” to public discontent with the pay cap.

The rejection of the amendment was received negatively by the Royal College of Nursing, with Chief Executive Janet Davies calling it a “a bitter disappointment for nurses and others in the public sector.” The RCN said that while its planned Summer of Protest against the cap would continue, it would look to “continue to build cross-party support this summer. If the Prime Minister intends to address pay in an autumn Budget, she should do so without delay.”

Welsh Government publishes proposals on quality and governance in health and care

The Welsh Government has published a White Paper proposing “more integrated ways of working and better decision-making” in health and social care services in Wales, which will now be consulted on. ‘Services fit for the future’ focuses on strengthening the leadership of Welsh Health Boards “to promote stronger governance and leadership to ensure services are led, planned and developed in the way they need to be in the years to come.” It also proposes replacing Community Health Councils, which allow the public to be involved in healthcare decisions, with “new independent arrangements which would represent the interests of citizens”; and introducing a mechanism for these new citizens bodies to “provide clinical advice on substantial service change decisions”.

The language of the document reflects that of breaking down organisational barriers which is becoming more common in the NHS in England: the Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said the changes will “enable health and social care organisations to work together and across boundaries to ensure they deliver the very best care.” The Welsh Government will merge the proposals with the outcome of the Parliamentary Review of Health and Social Care in Wales.

CYPNAUK publishes position paper on education of children’s nurses

Children and Young People’s Nursing Academics UK (CYPNAUK) has published a position paper on the future of children’s nursing and the education of children’s nurses, in light of the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s consultation on its pre-registration nursing education standards. The paper outlines the increasingly complex nature of children’s nursing and the growing consciousness and engagement of children, young people and their families in decisions affecting their health and care. As such, the organisation states that “children’s nursing should not be considered a ‘specialism’ but rather as generic care relating to the specific age periods of childhood and adolescence”, requiring extensive preparation and training for working with children.

The paper also points to statistics suggesting there is a “46.9% gap for children’s nurses in community settings”, meaning that many newly qualified children’s nurses choose to work in institutional settings rather than in the community. CYPNAUK ultimately calls for dedicated children’s nursing training “which itself includes integral fields of highly specialist practice” to be maintained, rather than children’s nursing becoming absorbed into generalist nursing qualifications.