January saw health secretary Frank Dobson launch a £5 million recruitment campaign for nurses of all grades – with the emphasis placed firmly on improved pay and conditions.
Nurses who are no longer working in the NHS are a major focus of the initiative, which stresses the central role they will play in the Government’s modernised NHS.
Announcing his plans, Dobson said: “Nurses and midwives make a difference. They are the key to delivering a modern and dependable NHS. That is why we need more of them in our hospitals, our GP practices and in the community.”
He added: “We are determined to improve their working conditions and to modernise the pay and grading system. A modern NHS needs a modern system for rewarding the staff – particularly the experienced nurses and midwives on whom the system depends.”
Dobson went on to describe the initiatives already in operation to bring nurses back to the NHS:
Extra training places for nurses, including new funding to widen routes of entry into nurse training.
Extra cash paid in bursaries to enable 2,700 Enrolled Nurses to retrain and return to the NHS over the next three years.
Additional funding to allow more than 1,000 existing NHS staff, such as healthcare assistants, to become nurses, with their income protected during training, over the next three years.
A pay rise of up to £1,195 through additional discretionary points on pay scales for nurses at the top of their grades carrying out additional work or taking on extra responsibilities.
While announcing the campaign, Dobson also made it clear that he felt the current grading system under which NHS nurses operated was too rigid: “There are too many grades with artificial ceilings.
“We, and, I believe, the nurses and midwives would like to see this changed to provide for say, just three grades of qualified nurses which might be described as registered nurse practitioners, advanced nurse practitioners and specialist nurse practitioners.”