Nursing and the economic downturn

Peter Carter chairing the meeting, with Commissioner Anne Marie Rafferty on the far left. Photo courtesy of RCN

Peter Carter chairing the meeting, with Commissioner Anne Marie Rafferty on the far left. Photo courtesy of RCN


The economic downturn presents not only challenges but also opportunities for nurses, according to leading thinkers and policy experts. Nurses should focus on achieving best value – and use the opportunity to position themselves as quality champions.

These messages were discussed at a round table on nursing and the economic downturn hosted by the Royal College of Nursing on 25 August. The conclusions have been presented to the Prime Minister’s Commission to inform its discussions on the socioeconomic case for nursing and midwifery.

The round table was chaired by RCN chief executive and Commissioner Peter Carter and facilitated by journalist John Carvel. Participants included experts from the Care Quality Commission, the King’s Fund, London Rebuilding, the London School of Economics, the NHS Confederation and Reform. Commissioner Anne Marie Rafferty, expert adviser Jim Buchan and support office joint lead Jane Salvage also participated for the Commission.

They debated what history tells us about the impact of economic crises on nursing and health care, and whether the current downturn will be different. They looked at the short, medium and long-term threats and opportunities, and at strategies and recommendations.

The current health policy focus on quality and the shift of service settings away from hospital and into the home, Dr Carter said, could create significant opportunities for nurses to be at the cutting edge of introducing new ways of delivering care – provided that better incentives were provided for practitioners and organisations.

RCN: Downturn could be greatest threat to nursing in living memory