The NHS is “desperately short” of emergency nurse practitioners, which is exacerbating a “crisis” in medical cover, the College of Emergency Medicine has warned.
College registrar Clifford Mann spoke to Nursing Times following a “crisis summit” called by the medical body to discuss the chronic shortage of emergency consultants and middle grade doctors.
Many hospital trusts are reporting problems filling medical posts in accident and emergency departments. Recruitment problems were partly behind recent decisions to close A&E departments overnight at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust and Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust.
Mid Yorkshire was only able to begin operating a 24 hour service again in September after bringing in GPs with emergency medicine skills to man the service overnight while Mid Staffordshire is still closed between 10pm and 8am.
Dr Mann said staff shortages often meant medical shifts were being filled by poor quality locums or not at all. This put pressure on other staff in A&E, including nurses, and led to potentially unsafe care.
He told Nursing Times more emergency nurse practitioners could help alleviate the problem, as they were often able to work more autonomously than junior doctors. But he said trusts were reluctant to fund the posts, as emergency nurse practitioners were on a higher pay band than most A&E nurses and cost more than trainee doctors – much of whose salary is paid by the deanery.
Dr Mann said: “The college is very keen to encourage multidisciplinary working. We are desperately short of emergency nurse practitioners; if we had more of them that would free up medical staff.”