There are weeks when I feel my head is spinning. There is so much happening – some of it worrying and depressing, but a lot that is really good and positive. As I write my members message, I am often struck by how hard it is to get the tone right and how I would dread to sound out of touch or overly optimistic when life is genuinely difficult for so many. Last week was one of those weeks!
NHS England Long Term Workforce Plan
I’m sure like most of you, we drew a sigh of relief to see the Long Term Workforce Plan published late last week. Now, more than ever, the NHS workforce is in desperate need of investment, some longer-term thinking, and a sense of direction from the top of government. This Plan undeniably represents a very serious attempt to invest in a health and social care workforce that can hope to meet the needs of the population – albeit in 10 to 15 years’ time. We were delighted to see the plan for the expansion of training places for health visitors, school nurses and members of the child mental health workforce, but we do have a number of concerns about how this plan will properly address all of the needs of 20% of our population; especially as inequality is rising, complexity of health needs increase unabated and demand on services remains high. Take a look at my response from last week, and we’ll be sharing a more detailed explainer with members soon.
NHS industrial action
The announcement of the five-day industrial action in mid-July by junior doctors and the subsequent news of the BMA consultant ballot result clearly indicates the level of concern across the medical profession and speaks to the pressure that our members are under. Every one of us will need to consider our own personal decision on whether to take strike action or not. These are desperately difficult decisions, especially for those who have already taken action and for whom the training and financial consequences are real. While the terms and conditions of service are not within the remit of a Royal College, we reaffirm the individual right to strike and we will keep our online resources up to date to help as much as possible. I don’t underestimate the personal impact this decision has as well as the demands strike action place on our services. Nevertheless, we will continue to work tirelessly to find ways to improve the working lives of our members.
Pay award agreed for College staff
The College’s Board of Trustees met last week and a fresh offer was put to UNITE members to vote. I am pleased to share that UNITE members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the new offer, which puts an end to the College pay dispute. I want to thank our staff group, and you as members, for your patience during this unsettling time while we resolve this matter.
Youth vaping discussed at Health and Social Care Select Committee
I know how worried many of you are about the sharp rise in the number of young people vaping. You don’t need to be a paediatrician to be aware of just how prevalent this is now. The College has a clear position on vaping and we had an excellent opportunity to articulate this at a special sitting of the Health and Social Care Select Committee last week. Our RCPCH Officer for Health Improvement, Dr Helen Stewart, was invited to give evidence and laid out the case for why we are calling for a ban on all disposable vapes – mainly to protect child health, but importantly also to protect the environment. 1.3 million vapes are thrown away each week and these items not only contain lithium, they are also difficult to recycle. The unknown long-term impact of vapes is a source of concern, as is the acute respiratory problems they cause, along with a whole range of other health problems in young people. This was a very important opportunity to make the case for child health and Helen did us proud.
NHS turns 75
Later this week, on 5 July, we will celebrate the 75th birthday of the NHS. Having lived and trained in a country that does not have a health service that is free at the point of access, I personally feel so grateful to have our NHS. She may look a bit battered and frayed around the edges right now, and many of us have our own stories to tell of when the health service has not delivered for our families as it should have. Nevertheless, I can’t think of a better health system and so we have much to celebrate when we reflect on the past 75 years – and much to consider when we think about how we should work to safeguard our health service for the next 75 years. There will be a service to celebrate the NHS at Westminster Abbey and the College will be there to join in on celebrations.
In the spirit of celebrating 75 Years of the NHS, the Nursing Times has created a list of the top most influential 75 nurses and midwives in the UK. I am so thrilled and proud to tell you that our own Judith Ellis, Chief Executive of the College between 2014 and 2018, and children’s nurse, is on the list. She is a wonderful example to so many of us and it is just great to see her recognised.
On that celebratory note, I send you my best wishes – and take care,
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