It is the mark of the increasingly backward system of healthcare that we practice in this country that the Department of Health has decided that all nurses need to be qualified up to graduate level from 2013.
The recommendation was made by the regulatory quango, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) with the Royal College of Nursing backing the move, On the one hand, NMC's defence of this move is certainly surprising in as much as the union are supporting the government determining the qualifications of nurses, circumventing the unions relations with hospitals, their direct employers. Yet on the other hand, the union may be banking on this restriction to nursing decreasing competition and thus increasing wages and the Union’s bargaining position vis-à-vis their indirect employer, the government.
UNISON takes a different line than NMC is worried about this move, for perfectly practical and sensible reasons:
Our concerns throughout have been to make sure that the profession, whether you're a nurse or a midwife, that we're actually reflecting the society that we care for and I think one of the concerns that colleagues have had is about making sure the right emphasis is placed on the care and compassion that nurses give and that shouldn't be solely based on their level of academia.
But for the big picture, Dr Helen Evans of Nurse for Reform articulates the attendant problems of grade inflation, increased costs and decreasing standards:
In further nationalising the labour market on the front line of patient care, ministers and the Royal College of Nursing will simply end up sucking in tens of thousands more ancillary workers and lowering standards on wards still further.
The next government has plentiful reform to undertake; it is looking increasingly unlikely that they are not up to the task, but given rising costs and slipping standards, their hand might well be forced.