'It’s time to end the understaffing scandals'
You probably don’t need convincing of the importance of an appropriately staffed ward or unit. There is plenty of evidence confirming that if there are too few nurses, care will suffer.
And yet, even in this post-Francis era, we continue to see organisations that, when forced to make cuts, aim the axe in the direction of their nursing workforce.
It’s interesting to see that most of the 14 Keogh trusts - the ones investigated by Sir Bruce Keogh at the government’s request due to high mortality rates - are increasing their nursing numbers (see page 3).
The trusts, which are in “special measures”, have between them appointed over 650 whole-time equivalent nurses in the past three months. They know that if they are to improve care and outcomes, then nursing will play a vital part in achieving that.
It is heartening to see such an acknowledgement of the important role nurses can play, and an endorsement of the view that nursing numbers affects the quality of nursing care.
Well that’s potentially the happy ending. But at the other end of the spectrum, in Northern Ireland there is a huge problem in A&E (see page 3). Nurses are so worried about the under-resourcing at the Royal Victoria in Belfast, that they are concerned the standard of care they are giving could risk their registration.
Stop thinking that nursing is a make do and mend profession. Imagine what nurses could do if the waters were calm just once in a while
We hear so much about the scandals in care. What about the scandals in understaffing? When trusts, forced by the efficiency agenda, cut into their staffing budgets so much that they leave remaining staff incapable of doing their jobs, stressed, burnt out and in emotional distress?
Nurses choose this career to help people. If you remove their ability to offer high-quality care, it will put them under huge emotional stress. Little wonder that nurses in Belfast are in tears and distraught at the conditions in which they are working.
Such cuts aren’t just putting patients currently in the hospital at risk; they jeopardise patients in the future too. Because making nursing a scapegoat for poor care is deterring candidates from entering the profession. It is putting the future workforce at risk.
It is time to stop thinking that nursing is a make do and mend profession. Yes, nurses’ ability to cope in a crisis is admirable, but imagine what they could do if the waters were calm just once in a while. The profession needs to be given the resources, tools and time to offer the care they so desperately want to.
If nurses are to offer compassion to patients in their care, first they need to receive a little of that compassion themselves.
Jenni Middleton, editor
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed