Celebrate Me: Now what? Action, that’s what!

Joanne Bosanquet, FoNS Chief Executive

I hope we all agree now that health is a human right; care should be a human right and dignity and respect are absolutely a human right.

We have multiple international agreements and frameworks supporting all this such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The International Council of Nurses supports this and every year, in preparation for International Nurse’s Day and the World Health Assembly, they prepare a suite of resources and supporting documents to gear us up to go out there are do what we do best: advocate for our communities and ensure ‘no one is left behind’. For instance, 2018’s theme was ‘Nurses, a Voice To Lead- Health is a Human right’.

So why are we still here? Why are we still fighting to be heard, fighting for the rights of undervalued and devalued members of society? We shouldn’t need to fight. We should to be in a position to advocate for and ensure that everyone gets a fair crack at the whip.

Even more profound for me, 30 years into my nursing journey, is that certain members of our community and society such as those with a learning disability are left behind in the first place. It’s the too difficult to do box again. It’s just not high enough up the priority list because it’s perceived as complicated. Well, it’s not. It just needs coordination, collaboration and proper co-production. Oh, and someone needs to loosen the power belt a bit.

Whose decision is it anyway that some of us are of less value than others? I could go so far as to ask why nursing is less valuable than other professions and therefore doesn’t get a seat around the decision making tables? If we were as valued, we wouldn’t have needed Lord Nigel Crisp and the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health to advocate for us 4 years ago when they commissioned the Triple Impact report which then morphed into the global 3 years Nursing Now campaign?

It’s already week 2 after the launch of Celebrate Me, where over 1,000 voices were distilled into a report which demonstrated the tangible benefits of learning disability nursing and expertise and of course co-production with people ‘in the know’. People, our citizens, carers and families who celebrated the exceptional talent of a worryingly diminishing group of the nursing profession. My concern here, as a public health nurse, is whether the need, or future need is being married up with the supply?

It’s time for a concerted effort across the UK. We have to sort this out. In this day and age and in the age of super fast and available digital communications, there is nothing stopping us getting together and creating a social movement for change.

We can’t wait for anyone else to do it. We, all 680,000 nurses and midwives across the UK have to do it. We all have to embrace diversity, celebrate difference and start to feel our calling, which is to improve the health and wellbeing, advocate for our communities and of course for one another.

What can we do now? We need to get something substantial into the entire undergraduate curriculum so that every nurse, midwife, medic, AHP feels this sense of social responsibility to ‘leave no one behind’. We need to increase our LD Nursing capacity across the whole system to ensure we don’t wait until someone is sick to have access to a learning disability nurse. Prevention and promotion of health and wellbeing is everything here and we should have LD nursing expertise across the care system and in the community/primary care.

Our nursing and midwifery journals should prioritise good news stories about LD nursing and thereby attract our next generation into the profession. The Royal College of Nursing should have a dedicated professional lead for LD nursing. This would be a UK wide role.

We need to develop a leadership programme specifically for LD nurses due to their multiple levels of practice across complex systems. And we also need to continue this dialogue with the 5 Chief Nursing Officers of the UK and Ireland through the themes of Celebrate Me.

I am inviting you into this conversation. I have not remembered everything that we talked about at yesterday’s #LDNAction event at London Southbank University but it’s a start.

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