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School nurses cut to make way for new health visitors

School nurses are at risk of being “poached” due to the government’s health visitor recruitment drive. The Royal College of Nursing

(RCN) warns some areas are replacing school nurses with health visitors in order to meet the government’s target to recruit an extra 4,200 health visitors in England by 2015. In response, the RCN has

called for a “sustained investment” in school nursing. “School nurses are telling us

that not only has there been a poor investment in school health services in recent years, but that they are increasingly stretched as recruitment freezes are imposed and posts are cut,” said Dr Peter Carter, RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary. “It is absolutely vital that UK

governments invest in school nurses, who play a key role in supporting children, young people and their families,” Dr Carter added.

One in six school nurses

responding to the RCN’s 2011 survey said posts had been cut in the past year. A third of school nurses also

reported they were experienc- ing recruitment freezes and 20% said staffing levels were being reduced. The RCN said “strong, visible

and influential school nursing leadership” is needed to plan and manage change and to help secure a robust future for school nursing services.

DH urges promotion of health apps

Nurses may soon be encouraged to direct patients health apps to allow them to manage long-term conditions. Last year’s call by the Department of Health for people to name

their favourite health apps led to nearly 500 entries and over 12,600 votes and comments. The government claims the development of smartphone apps

is the “next step” in its drive to increase patient control and choice. Among the most popular app ideas were those designed to

help manage long-term conditions like diabetes and to track and monitor blood pressure. Community nurses from across England are already communi-

cating with patients via health apps such as ‘Patients Know Best’, whereby each patient receives access to their medical records and controls who has access to them from their smartphone. The app, which is also being used by staff in Great Ormond

Street Hospital, allows patients to have online consultations, receive automated explanations of their results, and work with clini- cians to develop a personalised care plan. At an event showcasing the best ideas for new and existing

health smartphone apps, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said he wanted to develop health apps that track blood pressure and provide practical help in making staying healthy the norm. “Information about your health is a service – just like the GP surgeries, Walk-in Centres and hospitals that millions of people access every week. With more information at their fingertips, patients can truly be in the driving seat,” he said.

“Innovation and technology can revolutionise the health service, and we are

looking at how the NHS can use these apps for the benefit of patients, including how GPs could offer them for free.”

CQC Chief Executive resigns

Cynthia Bower has resigned as Chief Executive of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) following a critical DH review. Bower will remain in her post until Autumn 2012 and the CQC

has confirmed she will not receive a final “lump sum” payment. The announcement coincides with the publication of the DH’s

Performance and Capability Review of the CQC. It found the scale of regulation has been “underestimated” by

both the CQC and DH and more could have been done to manage risk in the regulator’s early years. However, the review does acknowledge that the CQC has

made “significant improvements” over the past nine months in increasing inspection staffing and focusing more on its core duties to register and inspect healthcare providers. Commenting on her resignation, Bower said she felt it “time to

move on.” “I am pleased that the Department of Health Performance and

Capability review recognises the scale of what has been achieved - and in particular the significant improvements made over the last nine months,” she said. “I’m confident that CQC will continue to build on the progress

already made, delivering increasing benefits to people who use services by shining a light on poor care - and I am proud to have played a part in this.” Jo Williams, Chair of the CQC, said she was “very sorry” that

Bower had decided to move on, but understands “her desire to take on new challenges”. “I would like to thank Cynthia for her work and leadership and

wish her the best of luck for the future,” said Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. “Over the last year, we have seen CQC make improvements

and respond to the need for enhanced scrutiny and enforcement of standards.”

6 Nursing in Practice March/April 2012

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