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'It’s vital to fix staffing problems in all settings'


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, 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 and follow us on Twitter @nursingtimesSOS

Jenni Middleton, editor Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed


Readers' comments (5)

  • The gigures produced by the CFWI appear just to be for England, what about the rest of the UK?

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  • When we make those assumptions that the public still view nurses as doctors handmaidens, and continue to fight that assumption, all we seem to achieve is a self fulfilling prophecy and reinforces that assumption. Surely, let's forget it and move on.

    As for hospital and community care, with commissioning, never the twain shall meet. It s about time all governments stood up and admitted that they are moving towards privatising the NHS

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  • tinkerbell

    Absolutely Jenny, give us the tools, staffwise, and we will do the job. I have never perceived myself as a doctors handmaiden and maybe that's why I have never been treated as such. I have always believed that I am a practitioner who is responsible and accountable in my own right and that I work collaboratively within my team. I have never watched a 'carry on movie' or similar and taken that to be a serious depiction of how nursing really is and neither do I think that the majority of the general public are too daft to realise that either.

    'Let's take a drink from freedom to think' and define ourselves.

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  • Hospitals are set to be required to post staffing ratios in Arpil 2014. It's a good thing that specialist nurses are recognized as more is required of them and the stakes get higher if something goes wrong. I would like to see a phone hotline from wards to hospital administration where patients and their families can make calls 24/7 and more presence of ombudsmen on the wards who can communicate with various stakeholders who are making difficult decisions about staffing levels that put nurses licenses in jeopardy.

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  • staffing needs to be looked at in the private sector too.
    I work as a Registered nurse in a nursing home, only 1 nurse on a shift, with 25 or more,in some homes, frail elderly residents.
    The pressure to ensure high standards of care is great, whilst dealing with any incidents or emergencies that occur.
    I feel the private sector should also be made to look at staffing levels/skill mix.

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