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We are only as loud as our leaders

Marilyn Eveleigh argues that it is the responsibility of all nurses to ensure their leaders are representing their needs and concerns at the highest levels

In order to be heard at the highest levels, nurses need to be engaged with their representatives. At a recent Nursing in Practice conference, a straw poll indicated that only a handful of delegates were aware Ruth May is our chief nurse in England, sitting at the heart of government. Worryingly, fewer delegates were aware of the lead nurse in their local NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), equivalent to Health Boards in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. These lead and director nurses have conduits to the four chief nurses who are the voice of the profession. Our voice.

The Government’s recent spending review gave only a slight nod to the workforce crisis. Nurses are hungry for workforce development and education funding to maintain services and safe patient care. To support retention, from 2020, every nurse, midwife and allied health professional working in an NHS hospital, community care and general practice will receive a personal budget of £1,000 every three years to contribute to the 35 hours of CPD required to revalidate. Disappointingly, there was no mention of funding for the significant number of nurses working outside the NHS. The neglect of this crucial non-NHS workforce is unfair, frustrating and divisive.

Nursing representatives have predictably responded with mutterings of ‘by no means generous’, ‘sticking plaster solution’, ‘a drop in the ocean’. Confidence that the nursing workforce crisis is being taken seriously has been further eroded. 

Why so little? Nursing is the backbone of healthcare, and we certainly have the numbers. Are we not heard? Is nursing leadership visible enough? We desperately need nurse leaders who will influence policy that better supports the frontline to deliver patient care and services.  

Unfortunately, due to their independent provider status, nurses employed outside the NHS have patchy local and national leadership. We need to hear their voices. They should be included in any new nursing strategy or initiative to reflect their value and collective potential. Their experience and professional concerns, with their identified risks and solutions, need to be harnessed to inform nurse leaders at all levels in all the UK countries. 

With the development of general practice into networks and integrated community-based services in England, all nursing groups, regardless of employer, will be working closely together for seamless services and financial efficiencies. Our local nurse leads are pivotal in the design of services – as frontline nurses we must link with them to inform and influence these discussions. Make it a priority to find out who your local lead nurse is. Better still, go directly to your chief nurse – they want to link with us.

Nurses need to support nurse leaders to support nurses.

Marilyn Eveleigh is a nurse adviser and independent trainer in East Sussex

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