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Rough Seas Across the Pond for UK Nurses

Pfeifer, Gail M. MA, RN

AJN The American Journal of Nursing: July 2013 - Volume 113 - Issue 7 - p 17
doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000431908.19731.3a
In the News

The RCN is navigating headwinds at home and abroad.



At a lively debate during an April meeting of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in Liverpool, England, the membership authorized withdrawing from the International Council of Nurses (ICN), citing high fees for little in return. Those fees total 16% of the ICN's worldwide subscription income, according to the RCN. After years of failed negotiations, the RCN unilaterally reduced its fee payments, and the ICN responded by suspending RCN membership for failing to pay 2012 fees in full. As we went to press, negotiations continued.

Scandal on the home front. The National Health Service (NHS) endured a scandal at a Mid Staffordshire Foundation hospital when its high mortality rates and lack of care and leadership spurred a public inquiry. The resulting report by government counsel Robert Francis, published in February, generated a flurry of responses from Prime Minister David Cameron and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who implied that nursing care and education were behind the problems at that and other NHS hospitals and advanced a plan for trainee nurses to spend a year working as health care assistants before going on to nursing training. The RCN, which represents most UK nurses, maintains that staffing levels are the real problem, that the government ignored most of the recommendations in the Francis report, and that its plan is untenable. Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, called on the government to stop “bashing the NHS” and pay attention to enforceable nurse staffing levels, the regulation and training of health care assistants, and leadership at the top (the government).

As of May, however, Cameron and Carter were still far from agreeing on how to solve these and other problems affecting UK nurses—and on whether the nurses or the government will make those decisions.—Gail M. Pfeifer, MA, RN, news director

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. All rights reserved.