What keeps nurses awake at night? The answer won’t surprise you. It’s short staffing.
In our annual survey, completed by almost 1,000 nurses, most respondents believe the biggest challenge facing nursing is having too few staff to provide safe care.
The rest of the survey backs this up. Over half of respondents say their ward or unit has fewer staff than last year, while only 9% are rarely or never short staffed. As a result, a third say they have left necessary care activities undone at the end of a shift.
We know it will only get worse. Nearly half of respondents believe they will be unable to provide a safe service as we head into winter.
”Nearly half of respondents believe they will be unable to provide a safe service as we head into winter”
Nursing is once again facing a recruitment crisis. Even health secretary Jeremy Hunt conceded earlier this month at the chief nursing officer for England’s summit that the last government had not trained enough new nurses. But our survey shows nothing is being done to incentivise our existing nurses to remain in the profession.
Poor pay, stress, overwork and a lack of appreciation is ushering them to the exit door.
“Our survey shows nothing is being done to incentivise our existing nurses to remain in the profession”
Mr Hunt believes offering loans instead of bursaries will attract more students to the profession, but there is, as yet, no evidence to back this up. Return to practice courses such as Health Education England’s Come Back campaign will also help, while plans to increase the responsibilities and competences of a regulated band 4 healthcare assistant could spread the workload.
But none of these will help the health system to cope this winter.
What of the overworked nurses turning up to wards and units that are consistently understaffed? And what of their patients? They are not receiving the care they should because nurses are forced to abandon clinical and administrative tasks at the end of their shift – as well as the equally important responsibilities of talking to, comforting and educating patients.
”There are simply not enough nurses to provide safe, high-quality care”
There are simply not enough nurses to provide safe, high-quality care. And what is the government’s solution? Agency caps. Everyone knows that costs must be contained in the current economic circumstances, but are the caps possible at the moment?
It feels like taking away the only solution that nursing directors had left at their disposal to get them safely through the winter.