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Round-up of last month’s main workforce and policy news affecting UK nurses

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Miss any of the news affecting the profession during January 2018? Catch up with our summary of the main nursing headlines.


Exclusive: Training scheme to combat wrong use of safe staffing tool

Blurred hospital corridor with three figures in it

The NHS is frequently called on to have a workforce that reflects the population it serves

The NHS is frequently called on to have a workforce that reflects the population it serves

Nurses across England are to be offered specialist training about how to use an endorsed safe staffing tool, after it was discovered that some organisations have been using the aid incorrectly.

The Safer Nursing Care Tool (SNCT), first developed in 2006 for adult inpatient wards, uses patient acuity and dependency to determine how many nurses are required for a ward’s establishment. It was updated in 2013. But those behind the tool have found some nurses may have been merging parts of the two versions and mixing up calculations that risk unsafe staffing levels.

They hope a National Safe Staffing fellows programme, funded by NHS Improvement, will ensure nurses are using the tool consistently. The new course opens for applications in March.

“We are aware the tool has been taken and applied by NHS hospitals in other ways than it was designed

Ann Casey

Trusts will also be stopped from using the tool if they are found to be utilising an incorrect version, under a new licensing agreement. Its design is now protected through intellectual property rights secured by the Shelford Group of 10 top performing trusts, which led the development of the tool.

Ann Casey, clinical workforce lead at NHS Improvement, said: “We are aware the tool has been taken and applied by NHS hospitals in other ways than it was designed. We want to make sure that doesn’t continue to happen.”

Ms Casey, who was involved in the tool’s original development, said it was not known how many trusts had been applying the tool incorrectly. But she said she was concerned that organisations may not be planning “appropriate” staffing levels as a result.


Nurse managers told to use raft of new safe staffing guidance

Clipboard form data information

Trusts told to regularly reveal data on ‘avoidable’ patient deaths

New guidance on setting safe staffing levels, especially for nursing, across five settings has been published by NHS Improvement for use in the health service in England. It represents the latest chapter in the development of national safe staffing guidance since it was first called for by Sir Robert Francis in his seminal report in 2010. The latest guidance covers adult inpatient wards in acute hospitals, district nursing services, mental health services, learning disability, and maternity.


‘Mixed views’ on education plans but NMC ‘may hold the line’

Student nurse uniform ONE USE

Student nurse uniform ONE USE

The Nursing and Midwifery Council is facing opposition from nurses to a number of its proposed changes to pre-registration education. Early findings from a consultation on the plans revealed many did not believe all students should be taught the same core skills regardless of their field or want simulation activities to replace time spent on placements. There was also opposition to the removal of medicines management standards and that assessors and supervisors would no longer have to complete an NMC-approved training course.


New campaign to help nurses with fitness to practise cases


Nurses who go through fitness to practise procedures should get the equivalent of a speed awareness course for drivers to help them get back on track and prevent their loss to the profession, according to new campaign group. Improving support before, during and after nurses and midwives appear before the Nursing and Midwifery Council is one of the key goals of the group, provisionally called CRISIS (Challenging Regulators in Sanctioning Individuals Safely).


Trust using office staff on wards to free-up hard-pressed nurses

Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust

Yorkshire trust still ‘requires improvement’, says CQC

Hull Royal Infirmary

A Yorkshire trust released some of its administrative and HR staff from their normal day jobs to act as “runners” on wards at the end of last month, so clinicians could concentrate on care. In addition, operations and clinics were cancelled so specialist nurses could work with accident and emergency staff to try and reduce unnecessary admissions. Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals Trust said the move, introduced on 29 January, was to help it deal with unprecedented winter pressures in 2018.


NHS staff to get first refusal on 3,000 new homes, says DH



NHS staff will be given first refusal to buy up to 3,000 new homes that are set to be built on health service land deemed to be surplus to requirement, according to the government. Thousands of new homes will be built on unused and surplus health service land across England, said the Department of Health and Social Care this month, in response to the Naylor review on the use of NHS estates.


Francis ‘strengthened chief nurses’ but improvements waning

Francis report image

Francis report

The Francis report

An increased focus on patient safety and staffing since the Francis inquiry into the care scandal at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust has led to directors of nursing having more of an influence on fellow executives, a report has suggested. But improvements are now being partly “halted” due to staff shortages and reliance on agency workers, warned the report based on the changes to the way acute hospitals in England were led since the inquiry’s findings were released in 2013.


Further rise in nurse and midwife student places for Scotland

Student nurse uniform ONE USE

Student nurse uniform ONE USE

Training places for student nurses and midwives in Scotland will increase by 10.8% in 2018-19, the Scottish government has said. The increase will mean a recommended intake of 3,724, up from 3,360 in 2017-18 and is the sixth annual increase in a row. Midwifery will see the biggest proportionate increase, with an 18.3% rise in training places, while adult nursing will get 10.6%, mental health 11%, learning disability 10.9% and children’s health 7.5%.


Career progress ‘Fitbit’ launched in bid to retain London’s nurses

London city hall

London city hall

A free digital tool designed to help nurses progress in their careers has been launched in London, as part of efforts to retain the capital’s nursing staff. The tool, described by those behind it as the “nursing skills Fitbit”, allows nurses to reflect on and record their career progression. A set of voluntary standards for supporting newly-qualified nurses through their preceptorship period have also been agreed for the first time by trusts across the city, as part of the Capital Nurse programme.


Decline in nursing workforce sparks fresh call for urgent action

Hospital entrance, exit or doors

Hospital exit

Academics and unions have called for an urgent government response to latest figures confirming that fewer nurses are joining the NHS than leaving it. The comments were made in response to NHS Digital figures that showed one in 10 nurses were leaving the NHS in England each year, with more than 33,000 leaving last year. The data showed that leavers outnumbered joiners by 3,000 last year, according to the BBC.


Exclusive: Chronic shortages taking toll on Northern Irish nurses

Northern Irish map

Northern Ireland

Map of Northern Ireland

Nurses in Northern Ireland are regularly coming on duty to find they are one or two members of staff down with “no hope of filling” gaps in rotas, according to the director of the Royal College of Nursing for the region, who says chronic shortages are taking their toll on staff wellbeing. In an exclusive interview with Nursing Times, Janice Smyth warned services in the region were “seriously struggling” now with the worst of the winter months yet to come.


Welsh respiratory plan to shift focus to community nurses



Funding for the delivery of respiratory care is set to be “rebalanced” in Wales away from hospitals and towards specialist nurses working in the community, according to a plan to reduce variation. An updated plan to improve respiratory health in Wales has been published, setting out the Welsh government’s “vision” for services and the “actions” the NHS would take in response.


New guidance promotes role of nurses working in care homes

Elderly man in wheelchair with smiling healthcare worker

What works to change culture in care depends most on local leadership and staff competence

The author of new guidance to support nursing staff that work in care homes said the “highly skilled” role had previously been “undervalued” but was now a major area of opportunity for nurses. The Queen’s Nursing Institute has launched an educational resource for nurses who either already work in or are considering going to work in the sector. Written by Queen’s nurse Sharon Aldridge-Bent, it has 10 chapters covering subjects such as dementia care and building relationships with family.


Patients’ view of care worse with lower nurse staffing levels

Talking with patients about their desired end-of-life care will ensure a better death

Talking with patients about their desired end-of-life care will ensure a better death

Perceptions of poor quality hospital care are strongly linked to there being too few nurses on duty, rather than staff being “uncaring”, according to analysis of patient satisfaction levels in England. It revealed satisfaction with care declined when patients believed there were not enough nurses on wards, while increasing registered nurse levels was more likely to improve ratings, said researchers from King’s College London, Southampton University and the University of Pennsylvania in the US.


Mental health trusts struggling with staffing ‘on a daily basis’

Mental health

Mental health

Mental health trusts are struggling to staff services on a daily basis, with some regularly resorting to using healthcare assistants in place of registered nurses, the King’s Fund has found. Lack of available staff nationally, especially nurses, “continues to undermine” work to ensure safe levels, it warned.


New guide on implementing and sustaining Schwartz rounds

Informal group meeting

Therapy talking counselling

A guide and film have been developed to help nurses running Schwartz rounds, based on findings from the first national evaluation of the initiative. The Point of Care Foundation said the tools were intended to improve understanding of the rounds – monthly forums where staff share experiences and discuss challenges – and support their “sustainability, development and evaluation in practice”.


New play remembers action of heroic Irish nurses during Blitz

World War II

New play remembers action of heroic Irish nurses during Blitz

Actors from the play What’s The Story?

The largely untold story of two young Irish nurses who saved the lives of patients during the London Blitz is to be dramatised in a new play. Mary Fleming and Aileen Turner were awarded the George Medal for saving the lives of 17 patients when Grove Park Hospital in Lewisham was hit by a bomb. The play, called What’s The Story?, relives how they climbed in a window and crawled along the floor of an upstairs ward to reach the stranded patients who were being treated for tuberculosis.


Replica bus stop installed by hospital to help dementia patients

Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust

Replica bus stop installed by hospital to help dementia patients

A special bus stop is providing dementia patients with a “quiet and safe place” to help prevent them becoming unsettled or anxious, according to Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Foundation Trust. Bus operator Stagecoach has provided a replica of one of its bus stop, complete with a timetable, which the trust aims to roll out across its sites. Pictured (from left): Health Tree Foundation community champion Laura Gooderham, project officer Ellie Rodger, Stagecoach marketing assistant Becky Waby, dementia clinical nurse specialist David Welburn, ward sister Andrea Benson, acting lead nurse Kate Scott and operational matron Debbie Bagley














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