The BBC has reported on the Professional Standards Authority publishing its review into the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s handling of allegations of malpractice by nurses on its register in what has been dubbed the Morecambe Bay maternity scandal. The report ruled that avoidable deaths occurred at the hospital while regulators took too long to act on concerns. 11 babies and one mother died in the nine years between 2004 and 2013. The NMC apologised and its Chief Executive, Jackie Smith, resigned ahead of the report’s publication. Having been in the position for six years, she will step down in July.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) had its annual congress this week in which it published a number of reports, including pertinent ones detailed below. The BBC reported on a poll of 1,600 adults in which 74 per cent of respondents are concerned about nurse staffing.

Consultation on UTI guidance launched

Public Health England has launched a consultation on the reference guide for diagnosis of urinary tract infections, and it includes a chapter and flow chart on “Infants or children under 16 years with suspected UTI.” The target audience of the guidance is doctors, nurses and pharmacists and “those giving first point of contact for urinary tract infections covering acute uncomplicated infections” in children and others. The aim is to provide “a simple, effective, economical and empirical approach” to diagnosis and treatment.

The guidance flow chart for children starts with a temperature check and lists other symptoms before determining the correct referral pathway and then details the outcome meaning of recommended tests. It outlines sampling options, how to interpret results, and other diagnostic tests.

The deadline for submissions is 30th May. We are in the process of drafting a response on behalf of the PCF.

Nurses call for investment in specialist children’s nurses

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has published a report entitled The Best Start: The Future of Children’s Health – One Year On. Valuing School Nurses and Health Visitors in England, in which it called for more investment in specialist children’s nurses. Its findings show that there is a continued downward trend in health outcomes compared with other countries, further disinvestment in universal services and fragmentation in provision for children and young people.

The RCN highlights reduction in health visitors and school nurses is a particular problem and especially considering the Government’s drive to reduce pressures on acute health care services in favour of primary and community health care services. The report reveals that the health visiting workforce is experiencing significant reductions, with NHS posts falling from 10,309 in October 2015 to 8,275 by January 2018. 81 per cent of health visitors and 70 per cent of school nurses had reported working additional time in their last shift alone.

The RCN concludes that the Government must ensure there is sufficient data collected for necessary monitoring and analysis, that specific support is provided for early and school aged years, and inequalities are addressed “in order to improve child health and thereby, in the longer term, adult population health outcomes.”

Janet Davies, RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary, said: “Children’s health services are the frontline defence against childhood obesity and poor child mental health. This downward trend cannot continue. The Government risks turning back the clock on children’s health if it does not invest in the school nursing and health visitor workforce.”

Councils reallocate school funding for SEND provisions

The Independent has reported that councils across England are being compelled to reallocate funding for state schooling to pay for dedicated special educational needs provisions in order to compensate for yearly overspend elsewhere. Some Leaders of county councils have penned a letter to the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, on the matter, following the County Councils Network publishing results of a survey which shows eight authorities have transferred £43 million of money allocated to schools to SEND provisions over the past four years. 21 county councils have overspent on their allocation of the £130 million high needs block government grant.

Angela Rayner MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said that “Schools should not have to choose between funding extra support for children with special educational needs and providing the basics that every child deserves in the classroom, but that has been a result of this government’s cuts. The Education Secretary and the Chancellor promised every school a cash boost to their budget, but now they have abandoned their own guarantee. Schools have been left scrambling to fill the gaps in their budgets, with more cuts the inevitable consequence of their failure to give them the resources they need.”

A Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson said: “Thanks to our reforms and the hard work of teachers 1.9 million more pupils are in good or outstanding schools than in 2010. By 2020, core school funding will rise to a record £43.5 billion – its highest ever level and 50 per cent more per pupil in real terms than in 2000 – and the introduction of the National Funding Formula will address historic disparities in the system. The high needs budget for pupils with special educational needs is £6 billion this year – the highest on record. Thanks to the additional £1.3 billion funding announced last year, every local authority will see an increase in their high needs funding over the next two years.”

Nurses denied training because of “staffing and funding pressures”

The Royal College of Nurses (RCN) has published a report saying that nursing staff are missing out on training amid NHS cuts and attributes it to a combination of winter pressures, staff shortages and funding cuts. Workforce development funding in England has reduced by 60 per cent in two years by Health Education England, and stood at £83.49 million in 2017.

The Nursing Times has reported on an unpublished RCN survey which suggests that 14 per cent of nurses in England, along with 35 per cent in Wales, 27 per cent in Scotland and 24 per cent in Northern Ireland have been unable to complete mandatory training, ranging from hand hygiene to blood transfusion processes.

The report warned that this could result in staff falling behind with the latest clinical developments thereby putting patient safety at risk and potentially disqualifying nurses from the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) register. The NMC’s revalidation requirements currently require nurses to complete 35 hours of continued professional development training every three years, on top of which the NMC is introducing new education standards for pre-registration students from January 2019.

The College is subsequently calling for additional ringfenced funding for nurse CPD, for all bodies working in healthcare education and development to publish data on total funding allocations for CPD and training, and for employers to be compelled to set aside time for it.

RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary, Janet Davies, said: “Nurses make up half the NHS workforce and, as a society, we cannot afford for their training to be an optional extra. These short-sighted cuts must be reversed. For the sake of patient safety, nurses must be allowed to keep up-to-date with developments and advance into tomorrow’s nurse leadership positions. Policymakers and employers must find a way to fund and guarantee this time. Nurses must not be allowed to fall foul of the regulator’s requirement,”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The NHS would collapse without our wonderful nurses – the fact that the NHS is ranked as the safest healthcare system in the world is a testament to their skill and dedication. It’s essential that individual NHS employers – who remain responsible for funding this specific type of training – support staff to develop and grow their skills, so that they can meet the requirements of their role.”