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RCN welcomes Willis Commission recommendations

The Royal College of Nursing has committed to play its part in supporting nurse education, following the publication of a report by the Willis Commission on Nursing Education.

The report, Quality with Compassion: The Future of Nursing Education, was based on more than six months’ work and contains evidence from patients, academics, students and other experts.

Dr Peter Carter, RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary, said: “We welcome the report, which has been the culmination of some rigorous and truly dedicated work on the part of Lord Willis and all of the commissioners. They have heard evidence from all quarters, paying particular attention to the patient experience to understand how nursing education needs to evolve to meet the needs of the future.

“Above all, we are reassured that Lord Willis’s commission has put beyond doubt the fact that the nursing profession of the present and the future requires a workforce which is educated to degree level.”

In the report, Commission Chair Lord Willis of Knaresborough called on nurses and their organisations to stand up and be counted, in order to restore professional pride and leadership. Dr Carter committed to Lord Willis’s recommendation, and called on other organisations to follow suit.

He said: “Where we can provide solutions to the problems Lord Willis identifies, we will do so. We will also play our part in making sure that patients, families and other professions are confident in the direction that the nursing profession is taking.

“Improvements will need to be made to the profession in the future, notably in the regulation of health care assistants and the need to make all student placements match the very best. However, the evidence in this report makes it very clear – the way to do this is to continue with nursing as an all-graduate profession.

“There is no truth in the suggestion that because nurses receive training from universities as well as on the ward they become less caring; in fact, the evidence suggests that graduates drive up standards and have the skills needed to face the additional demands which the future will bring.”

The College supported the commission’s recommendations on the regulation of health care assistants, the closer involvement of the public and patients in nursing education, and the importance of continuing professional development in maintaining a workforce which is safe, qualified and adaptable for the needs of the future.

The RCN is also committed to strengthening the workforce and career structure for academic nursing, recognising the need for continual improvement in the evidence which drives improvements in care.

Dr Carter added: “There is a great deal in this report which we need to work on alongside the Government, regulators and individual employers, and we are committing to work on these immediately ourselves, and to campaign strongly for others to do so too. Our own survey of nursing students earlier this year also raised concerns for us about the quality of some placements, with 48 per cent reporting a poor experience.

“We are already taking steps to work with universities and employers to rectify this, and hope that the report will help us to make that case. Our This is nursing initiative has also started to communicate the realities of nursing, and the observations in this report show that student nurses too have a great deal of energy and commitment of which they should be very proud.”

In his report, Lord Willis praised nursing students, and said their ability to articulate their ambitions and their desire to nurse was “awe-inspiring”.

He added: “We have been both humbled and excited by the enormous dedication, intellect, compassion and altruism that shone through the many submissions and presentations. Indeed the message was the same wherever the commission took evidence throughout the UK – the desire to provide tomorrow’s nurses with the very best opportunities to offer the very best care.”

Read the full report (PDF 1034KB) or the executive summary (PDF 699KB). For more information, go to the Willis Commission website.

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