Blog: Working in the House of Lords – Influencing strategy in partnership

Published on 02 October 2019

In this blog, Baroness Watkins shares her perspective of working with the NMC to influence parliamentary perspectives.

Baroness Mary WatkinsMary Watkins, Baroness Watkins of Tavistock, sits as a Crossbench Peer in the House of Lords and is Visiting Professor in the Florence Nightingale Faculty, King’s College London, President of the Florence Nightingale Foundation and is a former Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Plymouth University. She is currently alternate chair of Nursing Now, a global initiative to raise the profile of nursing, and in this role is co-chair of the WHO’s (World Health Organization) review of the State of the World Nursing due to report in 2020.

I am a registered mental health and general nurse, and during my career have been involved in nursing practice, education and research for 40 years. I recognise that the NMC plays a vital role in setting the standards for education to ensure that our profession is prepared to deliver high quality, effective care to populations across their entire life journey from birth to end of life.

I was fortunate to be appointed to Council of the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting (UKCC), a precursor body to the NMC. When at the UKCC I was able to appreciate the work that a professional regulator undertakes in assisting nurses facing significant health problems. I also recognise the importance of the Fitness to Practise Committee which is charged with maintaining public confidence in the professions through reviewing cases referred where issues have arisen in practice.

Working in Parliament

It is now just over 3 years since I was appointed a Crossbench Peer, I believe my appointment was associated with the need to further represent the profession of nursing in terms of its consideration in public policy development.

During the time that I have been working here, there are two key issues that I believe have been significant in further developing nursing that illustrate how members of parliament need to work with the NMC and other professional bodies:

  1. The review of the standards for entry to professional registration as a nurse, led by Professor Dame Jill Macleod Clark and then steered through the NMC committees under the excellent leadership of Professor Geraldine Walters.
  2. The successful introduction of nursing associates in England resulting in legislative change in order that nursing associates can become registered with the NMC.

I firmly believe these two initiatives will provide the public and employers with a more flexible, capable and competent workforce to meet the changing needs of society.

The next challenge will be to ensure that we make the most of digital technology as outlined by Matt Hancock the English Health Minister, who is encouraging all healthcare practitioners to develop their digital skills and understanding of artificial intelligence to keep our services up to date and cost effective. David Benton, Chief Executive of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, a US-based not-for-profit organisation aiming to advance regulatory excellence worldwide, promotes this as an important issue for nursing in his recent NMC blog.

WHO – Year of the Nurse and Midwife 2020

On 24 May, I was delighted to be at a meeting concerning the State of the World’s Nursing when the 72nd World Health Assembly endorsed the Executive Committee of the World Health Organization (WHO) proposal that 2020 be designated the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife”. This is because WHO recognise the vital contribution of nurses and midwives towards achieving universal healthcare coverage and that 2020 is also the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, said: “while WHO recognises their crucial role on a daily basis, 2020 will be dedicated to highlighting the enormous sacrifices and contributions of nurses and midwives, and to ensuring that we address the shortage of these vital professions.” 

I urge every nurse, midwife and nursing associate who reads this to play their part by working with the NMC to place the spotlight on our contribution to healthcare and to communicate to public decision-makers at all levels, particularly in government, the need to raise the profile of our professions.

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