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'Invest in home-grown nurses to get staffing right'


It’s all very well the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence making recommendations about staffing levels in acute adult inpatient wards (page 5), but do we really have enough nurses to fulfil the organisation’s vision?

Many hospital nursing directors are struggling to fill their estab- lishment, and are all fishing in an ever-depleting pool of potential staff (page 4). The nursing workforce is ageing and retiring, which means it is losing those with the most skills and experience – and many more may retire earlier than planned if they think it’s too much hassle to go through revalidation from the end of 2015. That would be less of a problem if we were training enough new nurses to replace the ones leaving the profession, but we aren’t.

The news story on Health Education England (page 2) highlights it is nurse training that may suffer as a result of the recent cuts to its budgets. Nothing was wrong with the way nurse education was decided locally – so why must it change? And why must nursing always be the profession to feel the pain?

It feels like if there’s ever a need to slash budgets, nursing is expected to take the hit. But at the same time, the profession is blamed whenever there are care failings. If there are issues that create red flags, these will be highlighted as a nursing staffing issue. And in many trusts nursing will be expected to make the problem disappear. But how do they do that if there are no nurses to recruit?

The NICE guidance at long last gives official endorsement to the evidence that proves the NHS needs more nurses on the wards.

Getting the staffing levels right isn’t the only aspect of providing safe, high-quality care, but it is an important one. Research has demonstrated that nursing numbers have the greatest impact on quality of care and patient mortality. But providing the evidence and being able to do something about it are two different things.

The government likes to tell us there are more clinicians in the NHS than ever before, but as we’ve been reporting for a year or so now, a chronic nursing shortage is looming. The Centre for Workforce Intelligence predicts a shortfall of 47,500 nurses by 2016.

Nursing directors have long known what the guideline will tell them – that they need more staff. But what they don’t know is where to find those staff. Instead of simply telling managers how many nurses they need, the government must invest in education so we have enough home-grown nurses to fully staff wards when the retirements hit.

Jenni Middleton, editor Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed


Readers' comments (5)

  • Sadly there will never be enough nurses for the ever growing and ageing poplulation. This small island is too overcrowded now and relatives of patients get frustrated when they cannot be sure of good care. Time to get the MPs working at ground level to experience the stress that healthcare workers experience daily and the pay just is not good enough relative to the high cost if living.
    The nurses coming from abroad will not stay longterm as they will never recieve a good pension here and are only on short term visas. The opportunities in Canada and Aus far outweigh opportunities here !!

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  • As a nurse who trained in England who emigrated to the Usa I can understand the frustration.
    Here in the USA older nurses are pushed out and replaced by new graduates with no experience. The new graduate holds BSN demands more money and gets it. The diploma Nurse such as myself is pushed out the door. I feel your pain.

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  • Anonymous | 17-Aug-2014 1:06 am
    Here in the USA older nurses are pushed out and replaced by new graduates with no experience. The new graduate holds BSN demands more money and gets it. The diploma Nurse such as myself is pushed out the door. I feel your pain.

    And here in Australia the same story applies - nurses have been their own worst enemy and are NOW reaping their (?) reward.

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  • too late NHS. you had your chances to take up our services and many of us emigrated as a result of poor treatment and employment conditions for far better opportunities elsewhere and would never come back.

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  • NHS funding is in chaos - we talk about transformation of care when in reality community and commissioners budgets are ever decreasing too, that compounded with an ever decreasing number of nurses adds to the burden of trying to get more for less. Politicians and senior executives do not appear to be on the same page - have we really learnt anything from mid staffs? Very easy to make a scapegoat and use blame culture tactics to deter from the real issues that face the NHS. If we want to retain and recruit more nurses why are we enforcing long days in many organisations - we all know it's not for continuity of care and is a means to support filling the identified shortfall, reduce agency costs and place frontline staff in a more vulnerable position going into the winter. There is no easy answer but it saddens me when all of my colleagues can't wait to retire because they no longer feel valued for the dedication and commitment they have shown over the years - when are the government and DoH going to wake up and realise that the NHS funding crisis and lack of workforce planning is taking its toll and the goodwill that was once there is rapidly diminishing - frontline staff work the additional hours for their teams and patients not for the employing organisation who seem to think that it's a given that whatever role or grade you are it is expected you continually work in excess of your contracted hours and nobody but your family loose out - where is the compassion for the nursing workforce I wonder?

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