In each issue Independent Nurse analyses an issue relevant to nurses in primary care, related to a clinical update, legal or workforce policy. This year has seen a real variety in the issues that have faced nurses in primary care including: another pay freeze; increased professional fees; and a re-evaluation of the roles nurses can play in alleviating the pressures on primary care and in some clinical areas.
1. The price of nursing – The NMC fee rise was without a doubt one of the most talked about decisions among primary care nurses this year. Despite heavy opposition from nurses and midwives, the NMC went ahead and raised its fees from £100 and £120. This sparked outrage among nurses who felt that the NMC had ignored their views and had made the decision that suited the organisation, despite having consulted on the issue. Jackie Smith, chief executive of the NMC, told Independent Nurse the reasoning behind the fee rise.
2. Working nurses facing hardship - The recession in the UK as well as a freeze on pay for public sector workers has left many nurses resorting to food banks to be able to feed themselves and their families. Charities and foundations for nurses have seen a significant increase in the number of nurses that have been seeking financial aid. This was given further weight when shadow health secretary Andy Burnham told Independent Nurse that he had heard of students nurses having to use food banks in Rochester.
3. Charging for GP consultations – At the RCN Congress this year, a nurse from London put forward the motion to charge for GP consultations as a way to increase money going into the NHS. The reaction was incredibly one-sided against the motion, with many speakers reiterating Nye Bevan's founding message of the NHS that the service should be free at the point of contact for anyone. Andy McGovern, the nurse who put the motion forward, told Independent Nurse that he didn't completely support charging for GP consultations but that the aim was to create conversation around how to increase funding for the NHS.
4. Trends in primary care prescribing – Increasing the prescribing powers of nurses has been identified as a way for primary care to cope with the huge increase in patient contacts. However, research from Kingston University found that the number of nurses actively prescribing had decreased in the last eight years. This was despite the fact that the number of nurses qualifying as prescribers has remained steady.
5. Children's mental healthcare forgotten – The statistics around children's mental health services are shocking. Experts have stated that three quarters of mental health problems manifest before a person is 21 and yet only six per cent of the NHS mental health budget (itself tiny) is allocated to children's mental health services. The government has created a taskforce to work towards improving theses services to treat mental health problems before they become too severe. The taskforce's report is due in Spring 2015.
To read more News Focuses from 2014 including the nurses role in comabtting FGM, how asthma inhalers in schools could save lives and how nurse-led practices could be the future of primary care, visit the News section.