The nursing profession had some happy news last week.
After lobbying from the profession, the unions and NHS England, the Home Office finally agreed to put nursing on the shortage list. This means registered nurses from countries outside the European Economic Area can now work in the UK without fear of being sent home if they aren’t earning more than £35,000 after five years.
At last, the government has recognised that we have too few nurses to deliver any - let alone safe - care, and made nurses exempt from immigration controls affecting some other workers from outside the EEA (see page 5).
This was described as an “outbreak of common sense” by chief nursing officer for England Jane Cummings. Hear, hear.
In fact, let’s hope that this common-sense approach to nursing becomes contagious. Let’s hope this outbreak of common sense isn’t contained by political control measures.
How about applying it to safe staffing in general? How about someone recognises that the only reason immigration controls were lifted for nursing is because we have such a dire shortage of nurses? We haven’t trained enough over recent years, and several acute trusts are seriously short of their establishments as we head into winter - and now they are facing a cap on their use of agency staff.
We still don’t have mandatory nurse:patient ratios. While many people argue against these ratios, claiming there is no evidence base, others disagree. In any case, sometimes you have to do things because you just know they are the right thing to do.
In 2003, Smith and Pell argued that waiting for the results of randomised control trials for public health interventions can cost hundreds of lives in the meantime - they said there’s never been a trial for using a parachute but you just know it makes sense to use one if you’re going to jump out of a plane.
So shouldn’t we just be honest and admit that it’s common sense to have more nurses on our wards? And shouldn’t we focus all our efforts on working out how to get patients more nursing care? Because, quite frankly, more nursing care will mean better nursing care. And it doesn’t take an evidence base to prove that.
Jenni Middleton, editor
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