‘What can we expect over the next 12 months in UK nursing?’


We are at the start of a new year so, as per tradition, I have consulted with the oracles on what may lie ahead over the coming 12 months. So, what do we know, what do we think we know and what don’t we know?

We know the health and care sectors, across most settings, remain under extreme pressure, mostly due to demand on services and lack of staff, plus the circulation of respiratory diseases including flu and Covid-19.

Sadly, I don’t expect any major changes in the right direction there. As a result, we know that staff recruitment, retention and wellbeing remain vital.

“Nursing Times will be here to support you and celebrate all that is great about nursing throughout 2024”

We also know that NHS pay remains an issue, with nursing unions preparing their next pay round pitches against a background of junior doctors in England at the picket line and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

What we don’t know is how the new health and social care secretary, Victoria Atkins, will approach things. She was quick to sign off a fairly generous pay offer for consultants, soon after taking office.

More positively, we know that further details are coming on the chief nursing officer for England’s strategy, including the 7Ps; nurse leaders are involved in the implementation of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan and work is underway on the Nursing and Midwifery Taskforce in Scotland and longstanding calls for the government to develop a long-term plan for social care staffing seem as far away as ever.

The CNO in Wales has her five priorities for 2022-24 in place and, this month, we’ve also learnt that we might soon be seeing a band 4 role akin to nursing associates joining the Welsh NHS workforce.

It is less easy to predict what lies ahead in Northern Ireland due to the political challenges there, but strike action may well be on the horizon.

It was announced this week that RCN members working in Northern Ireland plan to take to the picket lines on 18 January alongside other public sector workers.

Also, look out next week for our interview with the country’s CNO, Maria McIlgorm, on her priorities for the workforce and advancing practice.

Of course, one certainty is that there will be a general election this year. Predicting the outcome seems more straightforward than in some years gone by and we may well have a new party in power after 14 years, but few things in politics are ever certain.

However, Nursing Times will keep you up to date with all the key developments affecting nursing policy, so that you are armed with the facts as we head towards election day.

But we are going further than that when it comes to getting the voice of nursing heard by those seeking election later this year. As you are hopefully aware, last year we have launched our Manifesto by Nurses campaign.

We are seeking and compiling the views of nurses on topics such as the workforce, education and the future of the NHS, which we will then submit to the main parties, in order to influence their policy pledges for the benefit of the profession.

Thank you very much to those who have already contributed their comments and thoughts on workforce issues and the long-term security of the health service.

This month, we are asking for views on nurse education. Don’t miss the opportunity to have your say. You can find out more about how to take part on the Nursing Times website.

Another thing that is most definitely certain is that Nursing Times will be here to support you and celebrate all that is great about nursing throughout 2024. Happy new year!



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