STPs promise huge change and potential benefits – but at what cost?
Teresa Budrey, RCN Eastern Region Interim Director
In recent weeks reams of information about the future of the NHS in our region has been published online. If you’ve missed them, you’re not alone. The majority of the public is probably unaware of the huge changes about to be set in action as part of the so-called Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs).
The Royal College of Nursing has been busy analysing these documents, trying to glean from their many pages what the effect will be on patients and our nurses and healthcare assistants. This has not been an easy task. The majority of the plans – six which cover the Eastern region – are grand in their overall aims but vague in detail.
They all talk about the need to change the way health services are delivered in the face of huge deficits running into billions of pounds within five years if nothing is done. They talk about preventing ill health, treating people closer to home and out of hospital wherever possible, making sure patients get the right care in the best place. All very laudable objectives.
But how they go about this is a bit less clear, and as the plans continue to be developed in the coming months the RCN will be doing all it can to be part of these discussions and making sure the voice of nurses is heard.
Because so far nurses and nursing are not topics which form a huge part of any of these plans. Despite the huge role played by nurses and healthcare assistants in delivering care, much of what we learn from the STP documents about nursing is from reading between the lines. Greater collaboration across multiple sites = nurses having to travel to work at different locations. New health roles = nurses potentially being replaced by other, cheaper health staff. Expanded work responsibilities = new aspects being added to nursing workloads.
What is clear is that without additional funding, the new STPs risk failure. To save money in the longer term, investment is first needed to help put in place what will ultimately be big changes to the ways we deliver healthcare.
Any changes to the number of registered nurse roles as part of the plans would be of great concern to the RCN, which is why it is crucial we are involved in their formation. This has not been possible so far as the process has been rushed - STPs developed in secrecy and isolation.
On paper these plans are very ambitious in their aim of preventing avoidable ill health, joining up services and delivering a greater proportion of care close to or in people’s homes. The reality is that hundreds of hospital beds will be cut and yet community health and social care services are simply not geared up to cope with displaced demand.
Staff and patients must be reassured by the government that STPs aren’t simply for driving forward cuts to services and costs. The government can do this by acting now and funding health and social care properly. We will continue to push for what is best for patients and our nursing staff.
We’ve been busy telling you all about our fantastic Library and Heritage Centre and how it can help you with your uni work. You’ve also heard about how we support students in the workplace, looking out for your interests and helping you out if you find yourself in difficulty. The full range of RCN resources, opportunities and events is available by visiting our student web pages.
And let’s not forget RCN Xtra – make sure you’re signed up to this great way to get member discounts on everything from your shopping to cinema visits to train tickets, and much more.
But what often gets forgotten is the ongoing support the RCN provides as you move into work and your career progresses. You won’t be a student forever (though sometimes it might feel that way, such as during a particularly long lecture on a Friday afternoon!). We’re here to help you when applying for that all important first job, but it won’t be long before you’re thinking about your professional development. If you’re looking for career progression or moving to a more senior role, we can help.
The RCN has a wealth of resources to help throughout your career and we’re always happy to provide support to our members to achieve whatever you want to achieve.
We wish you all the best in your studies – and your future careers. Let us help you fulfil that great potential we saw when we met you all. You are the future of nursing.
A message from our Operational Manager Teresa Budrey
NHS set to change again
The landscape of the NHS is set to change dramatically. Again.
It would be easy to dismiss the sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) being drawn up across our region and the whole of England as just another fiddling at the edges of the NHS. If there is one thing that those of us working in the NHS are used to it is change.
But these plans have the potential to vastly change the environments you work in and the services received by patients.
Already there are reports from some areas of England that the plans will include proposed ward closures, cuts in bed numbers and changes to the way care is delivered in A&E and GP practices.
Until we have the detail of the plans we can only guess at what is to come, but the RCN will be fully engaged in consultations over the plans and follow closely how they will affect our members.
The aim of STPs is to bring local health and care leaders, organisations and communities together to help plan and sustain local health services for the next five years. The plans should include a focus on improving health and wellbeing, but this is set against a backdrop of tough financial times and an NHS already struggling with demand and cutbacks.
At the forefront of our minds must be the need for staffing to remain at safe levels – both for patients and nurses already working under intense pressure. We can only deliver great care with the right number of skilled professionals working in the right settings.
Any potential risk to patient safety is extremely serious and the RCN will always work to ensure that safe staffing remains a top priority, at a local level and right through to the Government.
It is vital that nursing staff are actively involved and engaged in the transformation plans, from their point of conception through to their delivery.
Nursing skills and knowledge will play a key part in ensuring this latest earthquake in the NHS landscape has as few tremors as possible.
Abuse of nursing colleagues unacceptable - Let's stand with our EU staff
The result of the recent EU referendum vote to leave the European Union is already leading to uncertainty for our much-valued EU nurses working in hospitals, care homes, as community nurses and in our education institutions across the East of England.
The most concerning result of the referendum has been an increase in reported hate crime, with attacks targeted at the homes and businesses of those who have moved to our region from overseas. To say this is totally unacceptable is a massive understatement and we wholeheartedly condemn any prejudice or abuse directed at nursing staff and, indeed, anyone who finds themselves the target of abuse.
It distresses me to think that some of our much-valued colleagues from inside and beyond the EU are experiencing abuse in our region. While this is a time of major uncertainty for us all, there should be zero tolerance of this sort of behaviour towards any and all black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff and RCN members.
I would urge anyone who has concerns of this nature to come to us for support. If you or a colleague are a victim of abuse, whether it is from patients, the public, or someone you work with, the RCN will stand with you. If you need support or guidance please in the first instance contact RCN Direct on 03457726100 where our trained advisers can help you.
Another impact of the referendum result is the uncertainty it has caused for job security. Will staff who have come from EU countries – often as a result of recruitment drives launched by trusts – be allowed to continue to live and work here once separation from the EU is complete?
Sadly, we do not yet know the answer in the longer term. But in the short-term you should be reassured that we do not expect any changes to be made for some time as the complex operation of removing ourselves from the EU pans out.
Nursing staff from the EU are a highly valued lifeline for the NHS and independent and private sectors. Because the UK has failed to train enough nurses in the UK and one in three of the current nursing workforce may retire within the next five years, we will continue to rely on them for many years to come and must all do our utmost to support our diverse staff colleagues in all roles.
We also need a team of nursing staff and leaders who are reflective of the diversity within the UK, including BAME members and internationally recruited nurses across the range of roles and salaries. These future nursing leaders are all within your current Band 5 nursing workforce and nurturing ALL their talents is vital if we are to demonstrate authentic leadership and inclusivity.
When negotiations begin on the UK’s exit from the EU it is vital that everyone involved understands exactly how vital this workforce is to our country – especially as it now appears the promised £350 million-a-week for the NHS will not materialise.
The RCN will continue to press for fair treatment for all nurses and for a secure long-term supply of staff to protect patient safety. I hope you will all join with me in support of our EU colleagues at this difficult time.