The chief nursing officer for England should take a lead in setting out how nurses are able to work in “safe and acceptable” working conditions, a group of MPs has said in response to concerns about staff wellbeing.
As part of the Commons’ health select committee’s investigation into the nursing workforce, the MPs were told by nurses that they often arrived early for shifts and finished late, and were not able to take breaks because there were too few staff on duty.
“Nurses also told us that they lack even basic facilities on the wards where they work to prepare food and drink for themselves,” said the MPs in a report published today and titled The nursing workforce.
- Safety concerns over ‘barbaric’ shift patterns and lack of breaks
- Employers urged to give nurses breaks or risk dehydration
- Major London trust encourages nurses to take regular breaks
At organisations where there were wellbeing initiatives in place, nurses struggled to find the time to attend them, stated the report, which was compiled with the help of Nursing Times.
The committee said it was “concerned to hear that some nurses lack basic facilities during their breaks or even the time to take them and felt that they were not allowed to sit down and spend time talking to patients over a cup of tea”.
“We believe there are times when this may enhance care and were reassured to learn from the chief nurse that there is no prohibition on this happening,” they added.
Among its 17 recommendations, the committee called for the CNO to ensure nurses are working in “safe and acceptable” working conditions. It said there must be more of a focus on staff wellbeing across all areas, “driven forward as a national policy priority”.
The MPs called for the CNO to write to all directors of nursing, including in social care providers, asking them to confirm whether nurses were able to complete handovers without routinely staying late, and whether they have time to take their breaks.
“Some nurses felt that they were not allowed to sit down and spend time talking to patients over a cup of tea”
Health select committee report
In addition, the CNO should set up a nursing wellbeing reference group to oversee a programme of work to monitor and help to advise on improving nurses’ working conditions, said the MPs.
Overall, the report warned that efforts must be made to expand the nursing workforce “at scale and pace”. “Without that action, many nurses will continue to experience unacceptable pressure, and will continue to leave the nursing profession,” it warned.
The report, which covers a range of issues affecting the nursing workforce was compiled with the help of the Nursing Times. The MPs held two focus groups where they met with frontline nurses from across the country, from a wide range of specialities and at different stages of their careers.
The chair of the committee, Sarah Wollaston, visited our Team Leaders’ Conference in Birmingham in November and found out what life was like for sisters and other managers who are charged with trying to fill their rosters.
She and her team also visited a group of nurses in London, with representatives present from hospitals and the community working in a range of specialties, including theatre and mental health. The evidence heard from nurses at these events is recorded in the report’s two annexes:
- Note of discussions with nurses held by the chair on 9 November 2017
- Note of committee visit to Royal London Hospital, 23 November 2017
Read more about the report’s findings and recommendations in our news coverage and analysis:
- HSC: CPD cuts must be reversed to stop nurses from leaving jobs
- HSC: Thousands of posts not covered despite use of agency nurses
- HSC: CNO should lead drive to ensure safe nurse working conditions
- HSC: Nursing organisations welcome major report on workforce
- ‘The nursing workforce must be expanded - at scale and pace’