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Supporting nursing staff with advance care planning

Dr Denise Chaffer 25 Feb 2022 RCN President

Dr Denise Chaffer, RCN President, shares a message of solidarity with nursing staff in Ukraine and updates members on the resources available for advance care planning

This week, we have witnessed the terrible news of the attacks on Ukraine in recent days which gives us all great cause for concern. The updates coming from Ukraine are deeply distressing and the international community must continue to come together in response. This is a dark moment in history.

The people of Ukraine are in all of our thoughts - not least the country's nursing and other health and care staff. As President of the Royal College of Nursing, I extend a message of solidarity - on behalf of members from across the UK - to them and nursing staff working in all countries facing conflict.

We also recognise that there will be members whose family or friends are directly affected by the actions happening with Ukraine - we are here for anyone who may need extra support at this time.

This month, I have had the opportunity to meet with members at a number of England regional RCN board meetings and the RCN Wales RCN board meeting. Thank you to all those members for being so welcoming - it was really interesting to hear your experiences. Whilst virtual meetings allow me to engage widely with members, I really look forward to being able to spend more time meeting members face to face as well in the coming months. 

A key priority area for me is supporting the RCN’s strategy around safe staffing and patient safety, and using my role as President to build relationships with stakeholder organisations around this agenda. This month, I met the Patients Association and Healthwatch England and we agreed there were a number of potential areas where we could work together more closely. We also discussed care of older people and improvements needed for end of life care. 

In my last update to members, I talked about the increasing pressures on community services, particularly end of life care services. Since then, I have been contacted by members emphasising the importance of advance care planning and supporting patients, families and carers to have early conversations on the wishes of patients.  It is very important for all those providing care, across the system, to have shared understanding of these wishes including community nurses, paramedics, carers and care home staff. Patient wishes must be clearly documented, available and accessible to those providing end of life care to make sure the best care possible has been planned for and can be delivered. 

The RCN is currently contributing to an advance care planning project being led by NHS England and NHS Improvement which aims to develop a set of principles to guide advance care planning - recognising that these conversations are not held in isolation but are rather a series of conversations and interactions which will support people to receive the end of life care they desire. I look forward to NHS England and NHS Improvement publishing these principles soon to support nursing staff working with patients at the end of life. 

For nursing staff working in this area of nursing, I’d encourage you to join our forums and to look at the resources available on our website.

As part of our support for members working in care homes, you can access our webinar series for leaders and managers of care homes to support complex and sensitive conversations in nursing practice - to support practice issues including end of life care, legal reporting and sexual intimacy.

You can also access our RCN Care Home Network, which is a supportive environment to share best practice, offer solutions and help improve care in nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The network is open to RCN members who provide nursing care in homes for the entire age range, across all clinical needs.

Nursing staff keen to develop their practice can also access our RCN Libraries Care Home subject guide and the Care Home Journey online resource

There’s lots of work happening across the UK to support our members working in care homes too. In Scotland, we’re influencing proposals for a National Care Service and have resources to support our members working in Scottish care homes. In Wales, we continue to highlight the role of nursing in care homes through our influencing work and in Northern Ireland, we’re running a leadership and development programme specifically for deputy managers employed in nursing homes.

Providing end of life care can form part of nursing care in a range of different specialisms - each role equally rewarding with potential for progression and development. Remember, the RCN is here to support you in your nursing role and your development - our resources can also be used to support your participatory learning time for NMC revalidation. 

Dr Denise Chaffer

Dr Denise Chaffer


Denise has been President of the RCN since July 2021 and is currently the Director of Safety and Learning for the NHS Resolution (formally known as NHSLA).

Page last updated - 26/07/2022