The chief nursing officer for England claims her team is doing more to improve staffing levels than has ever been done before.
“We’ve done more on staffing in the past 18 months than has ever been done on a national level ever before,” said Jane Cummings yesterday at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual conference.
“We’ve never had enough nurses and we’ve always wanted more”
She highlighted progress towards the regular publication of trust staffing numbers on the NHS Choices website, which is due to begin on 24 June.
She told delegates that staffing numbers had now been uploaded to the website from “nearly” every single organisation in the country, in preparation for publication.
Ms Cummings noted that the figures were “not comparable yet” and acknowledged that the initiative “doesn’t meet everyone’s expectations”.
But she said it was a move in the right direction and would be strengthened by the publication later this year of guidance on safe staffing by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
“When NICE publishes its guidance, there is an expectation that everyone will publish staffing levels and justify them,” she said. “And then we need to make sure we’ve got enough staff in these areas.”
She said the increased focus on staffing levels was now linked to outputs, such as the culture of an organisation, how safe it was to speak up and how staff were supported when they did.
Ms Cummings also admitted staff shortages had always plagued the nursing profession.
“We’ve never had enough nurses and we’ve always wanted more. But we are much further than we were, and for the first time we have this real attention to detail,” she told the conference.
“If you want to change culture, give nurses ownership”
The CNO said another concern was how to support staff to stay in their job and their profession if they felt tired, disempowered and unable to speak out.
“We ignore staff experience at our peril,” she said while giving the annual Mary Seacole lecture at RCN Congress in Liverpool.
Thanking her at the end of the speech, RCN president Andrea Spyropoulos said she was skeptical about the impact of recording staffing numbers for the NHS Choices website.
“Asking staff to record staffing levels is a bit like giving a thirsty man a diagram to draw a well,” she said.
“If you want to change culture, give nurses ownership,” she said. “When you give them ownership, they make good decisions, they will ensure they have staff but they will not overstaff.”
Ms Cummings said this was part of the plan but Ms Spyropoulos said: “Yes, but I would like it in legislation, as I don’t trust the politicians.”