Nurchat: Top concerns for General Election outcomes
Healthcare in the UK is one of the most hotly debated topics of this general election, with NHS funding at the centre of party pledges. It’s tipped to be the top issue to influence voters, in particular because so many healthcare professionals care passionately about their profession, their patients and for the NHS in which many work.
In a recent poll conducted following an online twitter discussion on the #NurChat forum, increasing the funding available for student nurses and improving the integration of social care with primary care were the top two issues that participants felt should be addressed.
Data from the Royal College of Nursing shows that applications for higher education nurse training places were at a recent high of 226,400, while the number of places available between 2010 -2013 fell by 13.55% to just 17,219. This would suggest there is no lack of interest in a career in nursing, however the level of funding support during training can be variable. A combination of a means-tested bursary and a maintenance loan are often how student nurses fund their living expenses while training. However, the gap between the funding offered and realistic living expenses regularly means taking on a second job to make ends meet. A 2008 study showed that 89% of student nurses were working on top of their study and placements to earn extra money.
Ensuring seamless, personalised care for individuals between hospital and the community is also a top priority for change and something that has yet to be fully achieved. The NHS Five Year Forward View has introduced several new models of care to improve the continuity of care for patients, but greater funding is needed to continue their implementation. The Kings’ Fund have reported that 65% of hospital bed days are as a result on non-emergency admissions, but that personalised discharge care planning has been shown to reduce re-admissions by up to 15%.
However, without nurses and care assistants available in the community, the implementation of a personalised care plan can be ineffective. The decline in district nurses by 44% since 2002 has meant the vast majority feel their workload has increased. However, their role is crucial in managing care plans and any additional needs that develop with the aim of avoiding a hospital admission for clinical needs that could be met in the home.
It would seem that both these concerns are rooted in the nurse to patient staffing ratio, an issue that has been covered extensively in the media following the report by Robert Francis QC into the poor standard of care that occurred at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. Staffing levels were stated as fundamental to good quality care and with UK population projected to grow to 70 million by 2028, the demand for care is only going to increase.
The top 5 concerns from discussion participants were:
- Increased funding for student nurses
- Better integration with social care
- Free end of life care for all
- More student nurse places
- Greater nurse to patient ratio.