Given the turbulent nature of 2012, primary care and community nurses could be forgiven for feeling less than optimistic about 2013. Morale is low, pay is frozen, pensions changes are being pushed through by force and workforce cuts are happening, despite government pledges to the contrary. Nursing is frequently portrayed by the media as ‘uncaring'.
And in the middle of all this, nurses are supposed to rally to the government's cause and help implement the Health and Social Care Act, taking responsibility, with other clinicians, for the majority of commissioning decisions; some might add: rationing decisions. However, 2012 was not all negative for nursing.
The renewed emphasis on ‘compassion' means a real focus on nursing; and with this focus may come acknowledgement that staff numbers and morale must be addressed. Patient feedback is at the heart of the NHS Mandate and patients value what nurses do. The ongoing transfer of workload from hospitals into community settings makes it most likely that ministers will invest in this sector. Community nurses should therefore have the attention of ministers as suggested by the DH's publication of visions, this year, for school and district nursing.
Commissioning does provide opportunities for nurses, opportunities to have a real say in the way local services are developed and money is spent. Nurses must grasp these, speak up for patients and ensure they are listened to. CCGs will find their input invaluable. It is true workforce statistics show cuts.
However, the effective ongoing health visiting recruitment drive shows what can happen when ministers put their mind to boosting a profession's numbers. Other disciplines should put pressure on ministers to do the same for them. The new year will bring challenges for nurses, but there is also reason for cautious optimism.