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Let’s see some action on nursing numbers

  • Comments (11)

In the past few years we have seen a plethora of critical reports about NHS care, and in the vast majority nurses came in for a kicking. There have, of course, been examples of poor practice, some of which have led to criminal prosecutions. However, there is a general acceptance both within the profession and from independent commentators that the vast majority of poor practice can be linked to low ratios of registered nurses.

It takes time to offer compassionate, safe and dignified nursing care, and while unregistered staff such as healthcare assistants can undoubtedly do this within their levels of competency, some aspects of care require the input of registered nurses. How depressing, therefore, to read that the NHS has lost over 5,000 nurses in the past three years.

Given that some trusts have been recruiting additional nurses in the wake of the Francis Report, this drop is not spread across the entire service. It seems that some still don’t get it – qualified nurse numbers are inextricably linked with the quality and safety of care. They may cost more to employ than HCAs, but the people deciding to make short-term savings but cutting nurse numbers should look at the research. Qualified nurses make significant long-term savings by cutting patient care costs.

Six months on from the Francis report it is surely time for the government to make good on its promise to ask the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to develop evidence-based tools for establishing minimum safe staffing levels. Without official guidance or recommendations some parts of the NHS will continue to view their qualified nurses as a first target when implementing cost savings. This blinkered attitude is bad for the profession and even worse for patients – and increases the likelihood that we’ll see more reports of localised problems that reduce confidence in the entire NHS.

  • Comments (11)

Readers' comments (11)

  • tinkerbell

    what you mean REAL ACTION? It is no wonder people of a certain age become cynical. I never thought i'd reach the point where I don't believe a word of what a government says. Over the past 3 years we have heard every frame of reference to what should be done, recommendations, studies etc etc etc but what ACTION has actually been taken. Sadly it appears none apart from tweeking about on the edges of the earthquake with a dustpan and brush. People have died from neglect, abuse, short staffing, bad management and STILL nothing.

    It's unbelievable that peoples lives are still being put at risk and makes me wonder why the media aren't broadcasting the dire situation on a daily basis with sirens in the background forewarning of impending doom. The health of our nation is in tatters whilst people vote for X factor. Have they put something in the water that is making us all dull dimwits? It will be too late to realise when it's all over and the weak and vulnerable and chronically ill become a nuisance and drain on the purse strings, where are we heading? To a society that doesn't care? Our NHS may have had many things that could be improved but at the core of its being was an altruistic society for ALL and not a business but a SERVICE.

    It's like having a fire in your home and someone pointing to it and saying 'you've got a fire going on there shouldn't you be doing something about it' and replying 'oh it's alright it's only a small one at the moment, I'll deal with it later'.

    Heaven help us all when OUR NHS primary role is to turn a profit. Pandoras box has been opened.

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  • Anonymous

    We are certainly seeing some action on front-line nursing numbers. Subtraction and division are doing wonderfully well.
    Tinkerbell mentions Pandora's box. Not to worry, it has been cleaned out already. The NHS shall soon be a dim memory. I love working as a nurse and I try to get a bit better everyday. But when the ever increasing workload stretches my human capabilities, it's not my vocation I question? I do question my ability to deliver safe, tailored and continuous care. Poor nurse staffing levels on the ward are a disgrace. Will someone get our nurse managers out of the office and on the ward. We cannot afford to let registered nurses become so out of touch with the new NHS patient experience.

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  • We would not be short of staff if the g grade and the f grade took the morning away from the computer or didn't take an hour every day for one to give the other a handover which took the nurses a half an hour at the beginning of shift .they are counted in the numbers but the patients don't even know what they look like so effectively that leaves 2 s/n and 2 or 3 a/n to 24 patients but the workforce tool doesn't show that and I was also told that increased patient dependency was not considered either so what good is another workforce tool .we need minimum staffing levels but then of course that's all we would get and that would cause problems . Lets just make somebody accountable for obvious understaffing

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  • I find it sad, yet oddly reassuring, that UK nurses are fighting the same exact fight as US nurses. We are ALL in the same fight!

    It tells me that nursing, as a profession, is not acting as one! We are giving over all autonomy and self determination to others.

    I left the bedside after spending many years in Neonatal Intensive Care unit due to staffing and safety issues. I refused to put my license and safety of patients in jeopardy any longer. ( no I am not in management)

    We are currently fighting for laws on safe staffing minimums,state by state, and not getting far- for the same reasons as you- TOO many levels of management using up funding that should go for more bedside care nurses.

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  • Anonymous

    Maybe if the secondment opportunities within the workplace were considerably higher than many more hca's would be able to realise their ambition of becoming a qualified nurse. I have been offered a place at University to do my training but have not been offered a secondment and cannot afford to leave a full time position to undertake study for 3 years.
    Help is needed for those who are desperate to train and join the profession!

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  • We have lost 3 grade sixes to other jobs. 1grade six and 1 grade seven off with stress. 13 staff overall have left in the last year. No replacements for the grade sixes. Weak management plus one dragon from hell who has made 2 grade fives cry. The ward is a joke. The quicker it closes the better. The top managers heads should roll!!

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  • Anonymous

    I have seen no change in nursing numbers in the 20 years I have been working. I don't really expect to see an increase before I retire. The ward I am on now did have better numbers than my old ward but the manager has given up as every time we are fully staffed someone is moved to fill a gap elsewhere.

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  • Anonymous

    When the good nurses have gone, when unaccountable HCA's staff the wards and when the doctors feel the pinch of responsibility. We may be missed. I'll be running a kennel and cattery by then.
    The unfortunate public and voters will reap what has been sown in this instance.

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  • Anonymous

    Sophie 28 August: I work as a triage nurse in a community service. I sit at a computer, taking referrals ensuring that patients are seen, giving advice to staff and patients alike for 12 hours (12.5 the other day). Due to staff having left, I have worked most shifts in the past 2 weeks without a B6 or B5 colleague to support me or my HCA colleagues. Most of these shifts I did not leave my desk except to use the toilet and make drinks. I eat at my desk most days which is taking its toll on my digestive system. But, I am doing a vital job in ensuring that vulnerable people receive care in their homes, that changes are flagged up to GPs, that they take their medication, that they eat, that they avoid hospital admission for dehydration etc etc. Being a nurse is not all about being at the patient's bedside. There are many, many different nursing roles and many different aspects to the nursing role. I agree with much of what you say but there are often good reasons that your colleagues are stuck at computers: Legal requirement to document everything; NMC Code; QCQ; Management demanding information of this that and the other; Handovers are an essential part of nursing care - we must communicate our patients' needs effectively to each other. In my experience, most problems are caused by lack of or poor communication between staff.

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  • Anonymous

    RenegadeRN | 28-Aug-2013 4:05 pm

    I'm sorry, but the nurses here are not fighting anything. On the day of action over the pensions issue, a couple of years back, more nurses in the US marched in support of their British colleagues than did in the UK! You guys and our colleagues in Australia are much more proactive than the profession here. That wouldn't be difficult, given that nurses here do nothing to help themselves or their patients. That's why we have the likes of Mid Staffs (there will be more) being allowed to happen. Nurses here are brilliant at moaning and making the situation worse by not taking breaks, working hours for free and generally contributing to the ease of a manager's job. Some argue that if they don't stay behind to look after the patients, then no one will. You should see their faces when those very same nurses are made redundant, because they didn't stand together and fight for their jobs. They don't seem to realise that their lack of responsible action has actually made the situation worse for our patients. The Oz bunch get organised, provide emergency cover and get out on the streets backed by strong unions. That's why they have better staff patient ratios, skill mixes and pay and conditions.

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