Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

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

  • Comment

Miss any of the news affecting the profession during September and early October 2017? Catch up with our summary of the main nursing headlines.


NHS pressures ‘hindering ethical practice and care by nurses’

Busy hospital

Busy hospital

One in eight nurses warn that they face barriers to working in a caring and compassionate manner due to the pressure they face in the health service, according to researchers.

“Many nurses felt their moral obligations to the patients had to be compromised”

Kristján Kristjánsson

Their study provided a “moral snapshot” of the profession at a time of unrivalled pressure on the NHS, said the Birmingham University researchers. They found staff reductions, time pressures and “pen-pushing” were leading to moral disengagement – and compromising professional practice.

They surveyed 696 first-year and final-year students, as well as nurses who had been in work for five years or more. A further 10 educators were also interviewed.

Due to the demands on their time, 83% of experienced nurses reported serious challenges in staying true to their moral character and values. Staff shortages, bed management and administrative tasks were cited as key factors driving this. The study also revealed a “disconcerting” reliance on rule-based moral reasoning throughout nurse careers, rather than on their own moral compass.

Based on their findings, the researchers made recommendations to improve both education and practice. For example, they said moral role modelling should be placed at the “heart” of education to remove the tendency to “go by the book” and uncritically follow practice standards. The also called for greater emphasis on ethical theory, helping students to relate values to practice, and a “robust” approach to character evaluation in course interviews.

Study author Professor Kristján Kristjánsson said the purpose was to “illuminate issues that help, or hinder, the virtuous practice of nursing”, adding: “Many nurses felt their moral obligations to the patients had to be compromised due to the time constraints and staff shortage.”

A major review of nurse education is currently being carried out by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.


Staff shortage ‘biting hard’ with over half of shifts down on nurses

nurse stress


Service providers must “urgently” examine whether they have enough nursing staff to provide safe patient care this winter, the Royal College of Nursing has said in the wake of new survey findings.

In a survey of 30,000 frontline staff, 55% said shifts did not have the level of nurses planned and 53% warned shortages were compromising care. The survey asked nurses about staffing and care levels on their most recent shift, with 36% reporting leaving elements of care undone due to a lack of time.

In addition, 71% of those in England said their last daytime shift broke levels set in 2014 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines for adult inpatient wards. The NICE guidance stated that more than eight patients to one nurse should act as a safety “red flag”.

Some survey respondents said colleagues had burned out and were unable to work, while others left shifts “sobbing” at the impact of shortages on patients. Many questioned their future in nursing and had contemplated leaving.

In the wake of its findings, the RCN called for more investment and for service providers to urgently give assurance that they were providing safe care. In addition, it called for UK-wide legislation that guaranteed safe and effective nurse staffing, with responsibility lying with ministers.

Janet Davies, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said: “The nursing shortage is biting hard and needs the attention of ministers – this warning comes from the very people they cannot afford to lose. Our findings are a direct result of years of poor planning and cost-cutting. Nursing staff are revealing desperately sad experiences and their honesty must drive forward the policy debate.”


Unions demand 3.9% pay rise for NHS plus £800 lump sum

Pound coin


Fourteen NHS unions have written directly to the government appealing for staff to receive a 3.9% pay rise, in line with inflation, plus the £800 lump sum. It followed the removal of the cap for police and prison officers and an announcement that the autumn budget speech will be on 22 November. Meanwhile, a survey by the same unions indicated “overwhelming” public support for removing the 1% NHS pay rise cap.


Public protection ‘key to interim regulation of associates’

NT Deputies 2016

Revalidation will ‘go further’ in future to up standards

Source: Andy Paraskos

Jackie Smith

The Nursing and Midwifery Council has responded to concerns about interim arrangements for allowing trainee nursing associates onto the register, by insisting they will not be able to join if they pose a threat to public protection. At an NMC council meeting, the regulator confirmed plans to allow associates in training to join the register, even though it is yet to approve any courses for the new role. Under the plans, the 2,000 trainees who began at 35 pilot sites early in 2017 will be able to register if they have gained a “comparable” qualification to one from an NMC-approved course.


Trusts should check unqualified staff are not working as ‘nurses’

healthcare workers

healthcare workers

England’s most senior nurses have encouraged directors of nursing to check whether they are employing or advertising for unqualified care staff with job titles describing them as “nurses”, sparked by a study that found hundreds such roles in the NHS. In a letter, England’s chief nursing officer Professor Jane Cummings and Dr Ruth May, NHS Improvement’s executive nursing director, suggested that trusts ensure that all staff titles recognised as delivering nursing or midwifery care clearly reflected their registered status and consider if the word “nurse” is used appropriately.


Exclusive: Funding for training ‘vital’ for nurse retention



Cuts at national level to ongoing training budgets for nurses must be reversed as part of measures to tackle “urgent” problems with staff retention, the head of the body representing NHS employers in England has said. Any additional funding given to the NHS by ministers in coming years must see money used for nurses’ continuing professional development, said NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer. He was speaking to Nursing Times to mark the launch of a new guide published by NHS Employers about how organisations can reduce staff their turnover.


New mental health nurses ‘not adequately trained or mentored’

Mental Health Work Stress

Mental Health Work Stress

Newly qualified mental health nurses are not being adequately trained for the role, while mentoring and supervision of students and staff are being undervalued and given too little funding, a workforce report has found. Key competencies and skills needed to deal with the “shrinking workforce, growing expectations and exhausting demands” on the profession were being missed during training, according to the report by the Centre for Mental Health.


‘Major concerns’ about future of district nurse education

Cedars school2

Almost all district nursing course providers have “major concerns” about the future funding and viability of their programmes, according to the Queen’s Nursing Institute, which said it was also concerned that recent increases in student numbers on courses appeared to have now “reached a plateau”. The QNI’s 2015-16 Report on District Nurse Education, published to coincide with its annual conference in London, is based on survey findings and a detailed data audit.


Better rated GP practices value their nursing teams, says CQC

More nurses must be recruited to practice nursing to alleviate the workforce crisis

More nurses must be recruited to practice nursing to alleviate the workforce crisis

Better performing GP practices are more likely to have “invested in, and valued, their nursing teams”, according to a Care Quality Commission report on primary care performance. It found better performing GP practices also tended to invest in training and developing their nursing teams, and make use of advanced nurse roles. However, it also warned that nurses working in general practice could become “isolated” and many practices were experiencing recruitment problems.


Interim leader appointed by global nursing organisation



An Irish nursing education expert has been appointed as interim chief executive of the International Council of Nurses, after the sudden departure of the previous incumbent, Dr Frances Hughes, due to “unforeseen circumstances”. On 22 September, the ICN announced the appointment of Professor Thomas Kearns until a permanent chief executive was found. He is taking a sabbatical from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland where he is executive director of the nursing and midwifery faculty.


London trust creates new Nightingale title for nurses

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

London trust creates new Nightingale award for nurses

An actress re-enacted the role of Florence Nightingale at the launch event

Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust has launched its Nightingale Nurse Award to recognise its most outstanding nurses. Named in honour of the pioneering nurse, who established her first nursing school at St Thomas’ Hospital in 1859, the award is unique to the trust. A launch event attended by over 200 nurses was held on 13 September and featured the Florence Nightingale lamp.


University’s first nursing students receive royal welcome

University of the Highlands and Islands

University’s first nursing students receive royal welcome

Princess Royal meets student nures in Inverness on Monday 25 September 2017

HRH the Princess Royal visited sites at Stornoway and Inverness last month to welcome the University of the Highlands and Islands’ first ever intake of nursing students. Acting in her role as chancellor of the university, the princess presented each student with a commemorative pen and announced plans to introduce a Chancellor’s Nursing Award. It follows the transfer of the pre-registration nurse education programmes for BSc mental health nursing and BSc adult nursing from the University of Stirling, which was approved by regulators last year.




  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.