“Immediate steps” must be taken to strengthen and recognise the “linchpin” role of ward sisters and charge nurses, the Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery recommends.
More from: Pledge to restore public trust in nursing
It says local reviews need to ensure the role is properly paid and banded and given “optimum” support from managers and senior clinicians – including access to management training and mentoring.
The urgency of the recommendation reflects the commission’s concern that the status of the role has been downgraded, leading many relatively inexperienced nurses to be promoted into the role without sufficient clinical or managerial experience.
Sources close to the commission told Nursing Times the downgrading was partly due to the sister’s loss of control over functions such as cleaning, but also because of the elevated status now given to specialist nurses - who are often paid more than ward sisters for what are regarded as more interesting jobs with a lighter workload.
Among the draft recommendations, the commission says the Nursing and Midwifery Council should regulate advanced nursing practitioners to ensure each the up to date skills to merit their title.
The recommendation follows discussions between commissioners, NHS employers and the Department of Health that too many advanced and specialist nurses have been promoted into their posts – many paid at band 8 and above - with no ongoing evidence they continue to work at an advanced level. Commission members have visited Australia where advance nurses are regulated – a system that results in fewer but more consistently experienced advanced nurses.
Nursing Times has been told the regulation of these staff groups could lead to a significant number being stripped of their “advanced” or “specialist” title, with knock-on effects for pay and grading. But a source close to the commission said: ”Pay is really not the motivation; it’s about safety”.
However, a director of nursing involved in the discussions told Nursing Times that nurse leaders saw it differently. She said her trust planned to cut its “specialist” and “advanced” nurses and use some of the money saved to increase pay and training opportunities for ward sisters.
Call to support sisters and regulate advanced roles