What does the policy team do for you?

21 September 2017

Fleur Nielsen, Head of Policy, Council of Deans of Health

Although as members you will have experienced the benefits of the policy team’s work, it is often merely the tip of the iceberg that is visible and much of the work we do for members remains obscure and warrants some explanation.

The growth of the team has allowed us to work across a wider range of topics and respond more effectively to the myriad agendas generated by governments across the UK. Adding research capacity has increased our ability to conduct data analysis which is vital to help us interrogate and communicate data on applications, student demographics and funding. Graham Hieke’s work earlier this year with HEFCE was instrumental in securing an evidence-based teaching grant for 2017-18.

David Hooson in Wales and Lorna Fraser in Scotland work closely with members in those nations, UK portfolio leads and colleagues in London to promote national agendas and ensure we reflect a four nation perspective across our work.

During an incredibly busy time for regulation, Rachel Craine has worked tirelessly with the NMC on the review of nursing standards, setting up regional meetings for members and drawing together our response to the consultation. As this winds up we are already engaging with the NMC on nursing associate regulation, putting them in contact with members who can help scrutinise draft standards.

Though much of the policy team’s work is necessarily reactive, we also work to define and promote our members’ agendas. This is particularly true for our global and research portfolios where we have a key role in profile raising and helping to build capacity across the sector. Dorothea Baltruks leads on these policy areas and is developing networks of staff across our membership with responsibility for research which will help us target guidance and seminars.

As we have increased capacity we have been able to extend and deepen our relationships with important stakeholders and policy makers, representing the sector’s interest in meetings with government bodies across the UK, the chief nursing and allied health professions officers and funding and research bodies. Last week we attended a health policy meeting at HEFCE, presented at a CNO event on the benefits of postgraduate pre-registration education, represented the Council at a Health Foundation roundtable on NHS finances and went to an HEE nursing associate meeting, all in the space of two days!

We are learning that the best way to help our members is often to bring together the most relevant HEI staff and external stakeholders to discuss specific subjects. We support regular working group meetings on the future nurse and future midwife and turn frequently for advice to our research and global advisory groups. Over the last year we have hosted seminars on apprenticeships, advanced practice, ‘Nurse First’, centralised admissions services and, in response to members’ concerns, have round table meetings planned in coming months on paramedic commissioning and learning disability nursing.

The Council is its membership and to operate effectively in discussions with policy makers we are highly dependent on local intelligence from our members. Member visits and attendance at regional Deans meetings are a particularly rich source of information for us. From time to time we will use the bulletin or other methods to ask you for information. The greater the response to these queries the more accurate the picture we can build and convey, both to members and to policy makers. For example, we can learn a certain amount about student numbers from the UCAS data and in recent weeks we have been able to share our analysis with members, NHS Employers, the CNO’s office and NHS Providers. But more nuanced information from members helps position the organisation as a leading body on workforce development and focus policy makers’ attention on areas of potential weakness long before they become clear to the wider public.

Members frequently contact us to get an idea of the national picture and while we will never share commercially sensitive information without permission, we can sometimes help members to understand whether problems are localised or shared more widely.

We are increasingly asked to provide others with information. We are just starting work on a detailed submission to the Health Select Committee Inquiry on the shortage of nurses. We are also often asked for help at very short notice. Recently I was contacted by a civil servant for data he could take to a ministerial meeting a couple of days later. Thanks to our ongoing monitoring work and feedback from members we could provide a full briefing paper which I hope will help to influence those who ultimately determine policy direction.

I hope this provides a better picture of the work the policy team does on your behalf and, as ever, please contact us if you think we can help.

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