Nurses have often mainly been defined by cliché until this point. Stop someone in the street and ask them to think about a nurse, and they will immediately paint a picture of someone who works in a ward, attending to the sick in hospital, and being the handmaiden to doctors.
This image needs to be corrected for the public to truly appreciate nursing and how broad the skills are in the profession.
And at last we can tell how many nurses are employed by specialty and area (see page 2). The figures from the NHS Information Centre, for the first time, look at specialties. This in itself is a great advance - we are no longer looking at nurses as a homogenous group. We are recognising the broad church that is the nursing family and therefore will be able to demonstrate and measure how well (or poorly) resourced each specialty is and, indeed, their contribution to the public’s health. Bravo for this information.
What is startling is that while the number of staff working in acute, care of older people and general nursing is increasing (up 3.5% in October 2013 from September 2009), the number of community nurses has gone down 4.5% in the same time period.
Community nurse figures need to be heading north or we will only be moving the problem somewhere else. Nurses want to do a good job wherever they work
If, as I suggested in last week’s issue, we are moving more care out into the community, these figures do not demonstrate that we are resourcing that appropriately. No doubt the rises in hospital settings are coming as a result of the so-called “Francis effect”. It’s great that the Francis report has had an impact on the workforce numbers because the number of nurses is so clearly linked to standard of care. But community nurse figures need to be heading north or we will only be moving the problem somewhere else. Nurses want to do a good job wherever they work and for that, there needs to be enough of them to deliver a high standard of care.
Next week’s issue will look at nursing and healthcare provision a year on from Francis. We will consider whether the Francis report and its findings into the care failings at Mid Staffordshire FT has made any tangible difference to the care being provided. In addition, on nursingtimes.net, we will be marking the anniversary of the report with a special Student Nursing Times Speak Out Safely week. We will be encouraging everyone to sign up to our campaign to make the NHS a safer place to raise genuine concerns about patient safety, but particularly we will focus on students, inspiring them to urge the trusts where they do their placements and the higher education establishments where they study to sign up. Check it all out at nursingtimes.net/sos and follow us on Twitter @nursingtimesSOS
Jenni Middleton, editor
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed