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Nurses as change agents for a better future in health care: the politics of drift and dilution

  • Anne M. Rafferty (a1)


This paper takes the 70th Anniversary of the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom as an opportunity to reflect upon the strategic direction of nursing policy and the extent to which nurses can realise their potential as change agents in building a better future for health care. It argues that the policy trajectory set for nursing at the outset of the NHS continues to influence its strategic direction, and that the trajectory needs to be reset with the voices of nurses being more engaged in the design, as much as the delivery of health policy. There is a growing evidence base about the benefits for patients and nurses of deploying well-educated nurses at the top of their skill set, to provide needed care for patients in adequately staffed and resourced units, as well as the value that nurses contribute to decision-making in clinical care. Yet much of this evidence is not being implemented. On the contrary, some of it is being ignored. Policy remains fragmented, driven by short-term financial constraints and underinvestment in high quality care. Nurses need to make their voices heard, and use the evidence base to change the dialogue with the public, policy makers and politicians, in order to build a better future for health care.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

*Correspondence to: Anne Marie Rafferty, Professor of Nursing Policy, Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing & Midwifery and Policy Institute, King’s College London, London SE1 8WA, UK. Email:


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