(Thursday, 19th November 2009 Issue)
The United Kingdom government has made a significant announcement that all new nurses coming into the country, henceforth will have to hold an equivalent of a degree-level qualification to enter the nursing profession from 2013.
Prior to this important announcement, nurses only require a diploma thus attracting thousand of workers across the world, including West Africans who are commended for the valuable job and skills they offer to this vital sector of the British society.
The Health Minister, Ann Keen, personally confirmed such changes just a few days ago leading political pundits and other experts accepting that such a change is already underway.
According to the government, the reason for such an important change is to see to it that there is an increase "regarding skills and training a medical workforce capable of operating in a more analytical and independent manner". The highly competitive sector now attracted thousands of nursing students studding on various levels of degrees. After obtaining the necessary qualification and status, they may switch to other departments and freely further their careers.
Previously students from the African continent, especially the English- speaking ones could be shortlisted without much difficulty, following short courses and training. However, with the new proposed system, this could be a foregone conclusion. Nevertheless, the good news is that those already in the profession are not affected but the ones trying to come in with background of the medical profession may have to pursue such further qualification.
A Gambian medical practitioner living and working in London who intended to assist his younger brother to come within the sphere, the same route told the Point: "My true intention was to help him out because that's what he loves to do. But at the same time if he cannot come till the proposed changes takes effect, then I may have to spend more money to allow him pursue a degree programme in accordance with the requirement."
Several Gambians and other West Africa nationals, such as Nigerians, Ghanaians and Sierra Leoneans have positively excelled in the nursing sector here, and most of them are highly regarded for not only their determination but their credibility and competence.
As far as United Kingdom students are concerned, the precise contents of the new degree course will last three or four years. However, it has not yet been officially confirmed how long it may take to complete all the necessary studies required.
According to the government, the new standards are being developed by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)- the professional regulator for nursing but the nursing authorities maintained that they will ensure that all new nurses have the support they need to "make the transition to confident practitioner."
The authorities also have the conviction that with the new qualification, there is still "enough room to move up the hierarchy and make career progress" with more earnings, and thus many experts predicted that such help will be essential.
However, critics of the new system are suggesting that the changes may cause those "less qualified be treated differently and offered less wages," which the authorities refuted and insist they will prevent it from happening.
A few days ago British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in an official speech that the new systems and changes, among others are "not an issue for fringe parties nor a taboo subject instead it is a question to be dealt with at the heart of our politics."
The British Prime Minister spoke about how "we secure the skills we need to compete in the global economy...our diversity that we preserve and strengthen the richness of our communities".
Gordon Brown revealed that his government has set up the expert Migration Advisory Committee to advise on the effects of the Points Based System on the labour market. The British Premier also confirmed that it no longer needs to recruit "civil engineers, hospital consultants, aircraft engineers, ships officers - and so these and other jobs are being taken off the list."
Making further clarification, he added "I have asked the UK Commission for Employment and Skills to provide advice in January about national priorities for the skills system... I have asked the Commission to work with the Migration Advisory Committee to consider removing certain occupations on the shortage list."
Regarding the controversial calls by the opposition Conservatives for an immigration quota which may affect the nursing sector, the Prime Minster suggested that "to understand the damage a quota system would do to our economy, we should go back to the American system during the early part of this decade...It is this that has led President Obama to say that he will now reform the difficulties in the system."
Supported by the chairpersons of the business community who maintained that "instead of arbitrary caps, a market-based approach that responds to demand is needed."
Meanwhile, the ruling Labour has a major come-back in the recent concluded Glasgow North East by-election. The party that has been under pressure following significant defeats in similar elections finally bounces back to win almost 60 per cent of the vote and pile up a majority of 8,111 over the Scottish National Party in a traditional Labour.