As 2012 draws to a close, UK nurses must reflect on a turbulent year which marked the passing of the Health and Social Care Act, unrest over ongoing pay freezes, pension changes and workforce cuts, plus renewed media criticism of care standards across health sectors, plus a brand new health secretary.
While health visiting enjoyed a government target-led recruitment drive, other nursing disciplines faced workforce shortages and DH visions, that were heavy on aspiration but light on practical solutions to identified challenges.
Morale among community nurses is low, but opportunities exist and must be grasped in 2013, as PCTs are abolished and clinicians take over responsibility for £60 billion of the NHS budget.
Director of the Queen's Nursing Institute (QNI) Crystal Oldman acknowledges 2012 has been challenging for the nursing profession. 'The reality is that the state of nursing has been variable this year,' she says. 'But the press has been focusing on poor practice and this needs to be countered with the excellent practice nurses are doing - this is the absolute majority. There is too much negative press when most nurses are patient focused.'
Howard Catton, policy director at the RCN, believes the forthcoming Francis Report, to be published on 27 February next year, will be the 'Leveson enquiry of health'.