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'Act now to reduce impact of staffing crisis'


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 Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed


Readers' comments (8)

  • I wonder why there is a shortage of nurses? Could poor pay and working conditions have anything to do with it???? I am a Community Nurse, but my pay has been gradually eroded over the past three years due to no pay increase and rocketing inflation. I have to pay increased pension contributions, work until I am 67, pay increased NMC fee. Now to top it all, I have to provide my own vehicle to do my job in, and my Trust is now proposing to actually pay me less to run my car with effect from 01 July. Where's the sense in that?? I cannot afford to run a lease car as the reimbursement rate is only 10p per mile, and the car would need to return almost 60 miles per gallon for me to break even. Here's one Community Nurse that probably won't be around for long, as I will be unable to provide the most essential tool for my job - namely my car. I would be interested to know if other nurses are in the same position re cars.

    I could carry on about lack of training opportunities, no professional development, no career pathway - but what's the point. On reflection, this was a bad career move and could't recommend it to anyone.

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  • tinkerbell

    yes one of nurses didn't use her lease car enough and had to pay them back for the under usage. Thankfully i never fell for that one and have my own car but my manager told me i wouldn't have to pay any extra for business usage on my insurance but in fact i had to pay an £100 on my insurance policy upgrade. No offers to help me pay for this.

    Now we have been told that as there may be less 'hubs' for us to log into or bases to have a pit stop we can do it all on route. Much like the Lincoln Lawyer who conducted all his business from the back of his car.

    Also we must now work out a route that uses the least amount of miles and try not to return to any base. Apparently we can do this with the aid of google.

    Perhaps we can jus nap between engagements and set an alarm for when we are next due to get on the road again. Or am i describing the life of a rock star?

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  • We haven't had access to lease cars for a few years and have had to carry out our job in our own cars with a paltry mileage rate. I think that it's pretty much the same everywhere.
    With regard to lack of training opportunities, lack of professional development and no career pathway, it is actually worse in hospital. Fewer posts available for advancement. No opportunities for even going sideways. Being a nurse is a bad career move. I had several months of genuine anxiety when my daughter announced that she was thinking about Nursing as a career. That's when I realised how bad a job it has become. Thankfully, she chose to study architecture instead. She'll have a chance at a career where she can plough her own furrow, be creative and maybe earn enough not to struggle to make ends meet.

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  • I wonder whether we will see recruitment campaigns to get nurses to return to practice. in my area the course cost £1200 last year. this year, when I got the money together to do it, I found out that it had been discontinued. There is a lack of workforce planning and also an acknowledgement that women who make up most of nursing workforce move in and out of employment.

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  • If there is such a shortage of skilled nurses, why does the Trust where I work not support staff struggling to work? I need to work less hours, said I wanted to retire as a band 6 and return to work on a band 5 working 15 hours a week. No I can't but when any band 5 hours become vacant I can apply! I am in my 50s and have worked in the NHS for 39 years. If this is the support the NHS offers loyal staff they will be short of skilled staff, and deserve to be!

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  • Why would anyone want to stay working as a nurse when we are treated so badly, what's the point. We get shafted whilst we are working and when we do eventually retire we'll get shafted again, goodness knows who will be left to look after us when we are elderly.
    Isn't it time the govt and all our other critics realised that health staff are also patients, there are millions of people in the UK working in health-care, know something, we have families too who are patients.

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  • looks as if britain will soon grind to a halt with more invalids than people working and nobody to get them back on their feet. unless the immigrants are going to take over.

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  • Anon 23/06/13 12:57
    No not unless the immigrants take over.
    Britian will soon grind to a halt unless we have politicians who know how to do their job.
    I have been a nurse in this country for over twenty years after the British came to my country to recruit for nursing.
    Nurses need to find their voices.
    British people should have more pride in all the good and walk away from what is pulling this country down.

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