Ignore nurses at your peril. Haven’t we been saying that for so long now that you’d think the government, trusts and other organisations would start to recognise just how vital this part of the workforce really is? Well apparently not.
Failing to heed all the warnings that Nursing Times, the Royal College of Nursing and a stack of other report writers and nursing experts have been making for the past few years is soon to have a disastrous consequence.
According to a report carried out by the Centre for Workforce Intelligence (see page 2), we are on the cusp of a severe nursing shortage. There simply won’t be enough nurses available to provide quality and safe care. Demand is being driven by an ageing population with complex co-morbidities. And we haven’t been training enough nurses to handle that increase in need.
The report says the most likely scenario is that there will be a shortage of 47,545 registered nurses by 2016, created by a 5% drop in supply and a simultaneous 3% increase in demand.
The government’s plan to try and improve public health is a good one, but is far too little too late to mitigate the nurse shortage predicted for 2016
The government’s plan to try and improve public health, which will turn off the tap and hopefully cut back demand in the long term, is a good one - but is far too little too late to mitigate the fast-approaching crisis predicted by the CfWI for 2016.
Everything is far too little, too late, in fact. There are too few nurses, and by 2016, with nurse training taking three years, we will not have enough time to swell their numbers. And those nurses we do have, do not have the right skills to make the transition from acute to community care, according to the report.
An election in 2015 could turn the issue of nursing numbers into a political one. The media spotlight has been so focused on nursing that it would be hard to imagine that politicians won’t argue over how to handle the shortage. Again, too little, too late.
Surely, Mid Staffs proved the importance of good nursing care. Surely, our surveys into staff shortages affecting safety demonstrated that adequate numbers are essential. But the nursing voice is always ignored, marginalised and considered unimportant.
Further proof of that comes in our exclusive story on page 5, which reveals a leading nurse raised concerns about NHS 111 being unsafe to launch. She was ignored. And look what happened.
We may not be able to turn around the tanker and completely mitigate the disastrous nurse shortage we face, but we do not have to accept this as a permanent state of affairs. The government needs to look at this now - not to save the jobs of nurses, but to save patients’ lives.
Jenni Middleton, editor
email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed