Nursing is a truly global profession, and I never fail to be impressed by how our shared knowledge, expertise and experiences continue to shape and strengthen the design, planning and delivery of care across the world.
I recently observed the 74th World Health Assembly (WHA) and was delighted to see a landmark resolution on nursing and midwifery supported by countries across the world. The WHA brings together health leaders from all countries to discuss pressing issues in global health and agree resolutions that set the strategic policy direction for all countries to deliver.
Member states discussed and agreed an important resolution on protecting, safeguarding, and investing in the health and care workforce. The WHA also included – for the first time in a decade – a resolution on nursing and midwifery. This resolution calls on all countries to invest in nursing and midwifery education, jobs, leadership, and service delivery.
This resonates very clearly with our ongoing commitment as a professional body and trade union to staffing for safe and effective care across the UK, supported by our work to influence and implement legislation around workforce and accountability, and through the recently launched Nursing Workforce Standards.
It’s never been clearer to me that nursing staff make exceptional leaders; we are experts in our field, partners in care and we must continue to be empowered to play a leading role in the strategic direction of health systems and policy as well as care models and our own profession. What’s more, we must all take responsibility for educating and empowering others to support us in our endeavours and the signs are the message is getting through.
I believe that the adoption of the WHA resolutions on protecting, safeguarding, and investing in the health and care workforce and strengthening nursing and midwifery, and the discussion on the draft Global Strategic Directions on Nursing and Midwifery, is an important and historic moment. I witnessed an overwhelming show of support, with countries lining up to praise the dedication, service and expertise of nurses and midwives. It was incredibly moving and our task is to convert that goodwill into action. The commitment and sacrifice nurses and health care workers have made and make as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop in different ways across the world was repeated time and time again.
With the G7 Health Ministerial meetings currently taking place and G7 Summit hosted by the UK government next week, now is a critical time for the international community to translate the support demonstrated at the World Health Assembly into action. We’ve had a nursing presence at the World Economic Summit and G20 – nursing now needs to ramp up its presence in targeted ways including through organisations such as the International Council of Nurses.
Nurses and nursing staff have a pivotal role in helping to build and sustain more resilient health and care systems, and this has never been more crucial as we begin to consider the roadmap out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Levels of protection for nursing staff and all health workers during the pandemic, and in the long term, must be improved. Safe working conditions must not be compromised and health workers should be prioritised in the vaccination roll out. Wealthier countries must share supplies of vaccines and take immediate extra measures to protect health workers everywhere.
Global shortages of nurses and midwives must be addressed. More investment in training, education and continued professional development is essential. This includes fair and equitable pay that recognises the hard work and quality of care provided by all nurses.
Health worker mobility must also be properly managed, otherwise international recruitment can create crises in delivering health care, undoubtedly worsened by the pandemic. The WHO Global Code of Practice – which sets out principles for the ethical international recruitment of health personnel – must be implemented properly to protect countries with chronic shortages of health workers, otherwise any development gains will be undermined.
Nursing underpins the health of the global population, and universal access to care as well as many of the Sustainable Development Goals. To ensure we are able to continue delivering care to those who need it, we must never lose sight of our commitment to the health and safety of the workforce, in the UK and across the world.