An online petition calling on health secretary Jeremy Hunt to increase the bursary for nursing students has been signed by nearly 10,000 people. It was set up by second-year nursing student Katherine Webb, who claims that students have to take on extra work because the £1,000 a year bursary is not enough to survive. She said: ‘My main concern is that the Nursing and Midwifery Council says we have to do 2,300 hours of practical experience during the degree and most of that is in an NHS environment. ‘Those hours are supposed to be supernumerary but rarely are due to staff shortages, so the NHS is getting many hours of free work from students. Students then do 30 or 40 hours extra paid work every week just to survive.’ To sign the petition go to

EMPLOYERS TO BE RATED BY ADHERENCE TO EQUALITY STANDARDS FOR BME STAFF All organisations that employ staff working in the NHS will be judged on how well they treat staff from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities compared with non-BME employees. The Workforce Race Equality Standard, which comes into effect this week, has been developed by researcher Roger Kline, along with bodies such as NHS England and NHS Employers. Mr Kline is the author of Snowy White Peaks, a report published last year on discrimination in the NHS. The standard contains nine equality indicators, including the likelihood of BME staff entering formal disciplinary processes, being appointed from shortlists and accessing non-mandatory training. Performance on the standard will contribute towards the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) rating of how well a trust is led. NHS Employers head of diversity Paul Deemer said: ‘The undercurrent of the Snowy White Peaks report was the different experiences for BME staff

when it came to disciplinary processes, bullying and harassment.’ Mr Deemer added the standard will mean that trusts look at data in a ‘meaningful way’ and ultimately it will have a positive impact on BME staff. CQC chief inspector of hospitals Professor Sir Mike Richards said: ‘We expect providers to meet the needs of everyone who uses services and to take action on equality for their own staff.’ n Speaking at the Queen’s National Institute annual meeting in Birmingham last week, Laura Serrant, a professor of community and public health nursing at the University of Wolverhampton, said that there are still some patients who refuse to be treated by BME nursing students. Professor Serrant said she experienced the same sort of prejudice when she was a nursing student in the early 1980s and added that the ‘onus is on the qualified nurses on the wards to not allow that to happen’. See feature by Yvonne Coghill, page 18

‘Give people with learning disabilities greater rights’ People with learning disabilities should be legally empowered to challenge decisions about their treatment, MPs have said. In a report published last week, chair of the Commons public accounts committee Margaret Hodge said that it is ‘too difficult’ for patients to influence decisions affecting their admission to a mental health hospital, their treatment and their discharge. Her comments follow an inquiry held by the committee into why thousands of people with learning disabilities are still living in institutional care. In December 2012, following the Winterbourne View hospital care scandal, the government made a commitment that if a person with a learning disability would be better off being supported in the community, they should be moved out of hospital by June 2014.

But the government failed to fulfil the pledge and the number of people in mental health hospitals in England has remained at around 3,200. A fifth of these people have been institutionalised for more than five years, said the committee.


Ms Hodge said: ‘It is essential that the redesign of the system puts people with learning disabilities at its heart. Proper consideration must, therefore, be given not just to building capacity in the community, but also to enshrining in law patients’,

and their families’, right to challenge the decisions taken.’ The committee welcomed a promise by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens that many residential hospitals would be closed over the next two years. Mr Stevens told the committee that commissioners would now be told that the institutional model was ‘completely inappropriate’, acknowledging that it had been ‘indefensible’ to make so little progress against the previous commitment. Ms Hodge called on the Department of Health to collect the data it needs to co-ordinate a programme of care effectively and to identify how funding can follow the patient from hospital into the community. Read the public accounts committee’s report at

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