Our National Health Service is all about people – those who work in it, and those they care for.
So I was pleased to see the recently released Next Steps on the NHS Five Year Forward View gave recognition to the importance of nursing by including measures to attract top graduates into the profession, and to increase the number of registered nurses.
With our current nursing shortage, we need to attract as many people as possible into the profession, including mature students.
This mid-point review provides an important opportunity to examine if we are closer to achieving a joined up approach to health and social care.
Sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) have the overarching aim of bringing health and care services together to effectively deliver the services that communities need. It is the whole system taking responsibility for a patient, rather than just a setting or group of professionals.
Integrated care is good for patients, if it is done well – people get the care they need when and where they need it from the right professional. Nursing staff already work collaboratively in multi-disciplinary teams and integration aims to remove the barriers to joined-up working.
Nurses are in daily contact with patients and families. We are in a prime position to support local communities to live healthier lives, prevent ill health and navigate the complex health and care system with our patients.
And if NHS England is able to deliver the planned improved cancer care, mental health services and access to GP services set out in Next steps on the NHS Five Year Forward View, recruiting and developing specialist and advanced level nurses will be key.
Nursing staff in all roles, and in all parts of the health and care system, can support STPs to go from aspiration to reality. But they can only do that if there is full opportunity for frontline nurses, or nurse leaders, to really engage and shape the debate around the future of health and care delivery.
Senior nurse leaders know and understand how health and care should be integrated. They need to be at the heart of the STP process so that full consideration is given to preventing proposals compromising either patient or workforce safety. I know that RCN colleagues will also be outlining any concerns about nursing workforce issues at Local Workforce Action Boards.
RCN members are ready to work with other health and social care professionals to deliver the 21st century health and care services our patients and their families need. Utilising their experience and skills is key to realising the ambitions in the Five Year Forward View and individual STPs.