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Take time out to respond to two consultation documents that reflect how the nursing profession should be structured. The future depends on you …

Marilyn Eveleigh
Consultant Editor

I predict 2008 will be one of continuing pressure, challenge and change. For starters, there is considerable pressure on nursing with two consultation documents that require responses by early February 2008. They reflect the fact that the profession is facing the biggest challenge to education, structuring and careers in the past 40 years.

First, if the profession wants to proactively reform itself, we all need to direct some energy into responding to the DH consultation document on the new career framework for nursing. In this paper, Towards a Framework for Post-Registration Nursing Careers, the Chief Nursing Officer has launched an outline of the way the profession should be structured. We need to inform her how we consider it should be designed to meet the healthcare needs of our society. This outline is pertinent to England only at present, but nursing careers in the other countries will be highly influenced by the outcome. 

It is vitally important that primary care brings their unique perspective to the proposals. There have been numerous comments in the nursing press about the merits of the five proposed pathways that will replace the existing specialisms:

  1. Children, family and public health.
  2. First contact, access and urgent care.
  3. Supporting long-term care.
  4. Acute and critical care.
  5. Mental health and psychosocial care.

A common theme is a concern that the skills needed by primary care nursing traverse all the pathways. This was splendidly outlined in Liberating the Talents: Helping Primary Care Nurses to Deliver the NHS Plan 2002, yet regretfully had little impact on the way the workforce was planned.

A whole range of organisations, eg, the RCN and individual trusts, will be making a formal response, but we must not miss the opportunity for primary care nurses to make their individual views known about realistic frontline issues that can frustrate the best thought-out plans. Responses by 15 February. The document is available at www.dh.gov.uk/consultations

The second document that requires attention is the NMC consultation on the Review of Pre-registration Nursing Education to prepare the nursing profession for the future. These contain questions that have vexed us all at sometime, such as:

  • Should nurses be prepared to diploma or degree level?
  • What proportion of a preregistration programme should be spent learning in practice?
  • Should shared learning be a requirement?
  • Should there be generalist and/or branch programmes, and if so, what should the branches be?

Responses by 8 February 2008. Document available at www.nmc-uk.org

The harnessed energy of us all as the voice of nursing must not be lost in these consultations. I know all too well how difficult it is to take time out of pressurised jobs, domestic responsibilities and the infrastructure of keeping our lives on track. But we need to take responsibility as an individual or within our team to respond. We need to stop thinking someone else will do it/my views don't count/nothing will really change. Our views do matter - and too many of us are retiring within the next 10 years and our collective knowledge of change and their outcomes will be lost. Our legacy to the future of the profession is our informed opinions, gleaned over years of experience.
On a practical note, completing the consultation questions, whether online or on paper, is quick and easy with lots of tick boxes. You will whiz through it in 15 minutes! Go on, take the time out - the future of the profession to meet patients' needs depends on it. The profession needs all the help it can get if we believe the 1,400 responses to our online survey (see page 16), which indicates that 60% of health visitors would not recommend a career in primary care nursing. Will the restructuring of the profession help lower morale or increase an already dispirited section of the workforce? Here's your chance to have your say.

Resources
Department of Health
W: www.dh.gov.uk

Nursing & Midwifery Council
W: www.nmc-uk.org

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