Nurses must be given the respect, resources and time they deserve to improve care, says Tina Donnelly
The Royal College of Nursing in Wales has recently launched the second year of its Time to Care campaign. This campaign emphasises that nursing staff need to be given time to perform their role to their highest caring ability. It emphasises the experience of care that patients and the public expect and the significance, diversity and essential nature of the nursing contribution to healthcare. Caring is at the heart of nursing. No matter how sophisticated the equipment or treatment, or how technically proficient or intellectually challenging the practice - without caring it is not nursing.
Nurses from across Wales met Assembly Members at the Senedd to voice their concerns about having time to properly care for patients. The nurses not only told politicians about what is happening in their workplace but also gave cost-effective solutions to problems.
The Welsh Government has set a clear and challenging direction for the NHS, emphasising a move to community services alongside workforce redesign. At the same time the financial resources available to the NHS in Wales have shrunk and the health boards have responded by announcing radical service changes. Our members also know very well the pressure on budgets at this time and fear this pressure will grow stronger.
“Investing in the best care produces the best outcome and experience for the patient and it is also the most cost-effective use of public money”
However, the evidence is clear; there can be no substitute for the care of a registered nurse or qualified healthcare support worker. Investing in the best care produces the best outcome and experience for the patient and it is also the most cost-effective use of public money. Providing shabby, undignified or unsafe care is not acceptable and will not be accepted by our members or the public.
Having the time to care means that alongside the right environment, there needs to be the right numbers and skill mix of nursing staff available in order to provide this care.
The Time to Care campaign also celebrates nursing and highlights the achievements of nurses in bringing innovative and special care to patients. We would urge all politicians in Wales, irrespective of their party, to support and endorse this important campaign. By listening to the ideas of nurses and healthcare support workers we will be able to work together to improve the health of the people of Wales and safeguard healthcare services.
Nurses owe it to their patients to highlight the time to care issue. Nurses and healthcare support workers literally race through their shifts trying to complete seemingly endless tasks, but have less and less time to actually spend with their patients. Nurses want to be able to listen, assess, educate, and truly care for their patients - the reason the majority of nurses entered the profession. The inability to provide this care contributes to nursing shortages by driving nurses away from the bedside.
Nurses cannot deliver the best care if there are insufficient numbers of them on wards and in the community. Most nurses say that staffing is their biggest concern. Insufficient nurse staffing is linked with poorer patient outcomes, lengthened hospital stays and increased chance of patient mortality. Managing to make the best use of scarce resources, saving funds and improving care is a great achievement that has been made by nurses and should be celebrated.
The challenge is now with the Welsh Government to ensure that nurses and nursing are given the respect, resources and time they deserve to improve care for everyone in Wales.
Tina Donnelly is director of the Royal College of Nursing in Wales