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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Nurses demand an end to health inequality

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A new campaign from the Royal College of Nursing is calling for more funding for community services that help the poorest members of society

Longer-term funding should go into community projects to help improve health in our poorest areas, Scotland's nurses have said.

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland has launched a new campaign, Nursing on the Edge, which aims to tackle health inequality in Scotland.

The campaign is fuelled by statistics that show that Scotland’s better-off men live on average 11 years longer than men from poorer backgrounds.

It focuses on the first hand experiences of nurses, including psychiatric nurse Hilda Campbell who was turned down for promotion within the NHS because she was told she cared too much to be a nurse manager. As a result she left to work for a charity and become, she says, the nurse she always wanted to be.

Campbell heads up Caring Over People’s Emotions (COPE) which provides support to people living in west Glasgow from its base behind a pub in Drumchapel.

It helps people who are struggling with suicidal feelings, depression, substance abuse and domestic violence, amongst other issues.

Nurses demand an end to health inequality

This is a deep-seated problem that requires time and commitment to be put right

Theresa Fyffe, director of RCN Scotland

Nobody is ever turned away from COPE, which styles itself as a community safety net – if it can’t help, it’ll find someone else who can.

“My inspiration is Florence Nightengale, who took on the system and transformed it,” says Campbell. “Some of us just aren’t out to blindly follow orders.”

RCN Scotland believes that reform of the country's health and social care system should mean that more services like COPE are prioritised.

It has created a petition to the Scottish Government calling for a commitment to long-term funding for projects that improve the lives of the most vulnerable.

Research carried out on behalf of RCN Scotland found that 62% of people in Scotland believe that health inequalities are unfair and 27% think funding for services that reduce health inequalities should be prioritised even if it means other health and social care services are affected.

Theresa Fyffe, director of RCN Scotland, said: “There are many examples of nurses working alongside other health and social care professionals to provide services that are designed around the needs of individual people.

“These services, though, are often the victims of short-term funding and cuts. We want to see the NHS and councils working together to implement more of these services and put them on a sustainable footing – especially as one of the key objectives of the new health and social care integration partnerships is to reduce health inequalities. This is a deep-seated problem that requires time and commitment to be put right.”

Research carried out by Audit Scotland in 2012 estimated that improving the death rate in the most deprived groups in Scotland would save £10 billion.

Sheila Cron, a recently retired community nurse is backing RCN’s petition because she has seen too many community projects fail because of short-term funding.

“These projects often take time to become established but are suddenly stopped because either they do not produce the results quickly enough or their money runs out. This leaves communities at best upset, or at worst disillusioned with public services,” she said.

“Those providing funding – whether they are health boards, councils or the Scottish Government – have to understand that community work has to come from the grassroots and these services have to do what the people using them want rather than what the funders want. Not only that, enough time has to be given for people to come on board and for the service to have an impact.”

Sign the RCN Scotland petition