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'Nurses must hold their line on staffing issues'

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The biggest issue for providers of nursing care is staffing. This was the message received loudly and clearly at last week’s Nursing Times Directors’ Congress in Brighton

Jenni Middleton

One nursing director described her job as like walking a tightrope, navigating a balancing act between financial pressure and delivering safe, high-quality care.

This is particularly true in acute hospital trusts as we head into winter, but it is still a concern for any nursing director in care, community or mental health settings.

What we hear again and again is that nursing directors find it hard to make the case to their boards about the staff they need to provide even adequate nursing care. One delegate, arguing for additional staff had been asked by a fellow board member: “Are you trying to bankrupt this organisation?” And when trusts are told by regulators and NHS England that 1:8 is “a guide not a requirement”, it makes it even more difficult for nursing directors to make a case for safe staffing.

“Messages like this are unhelpful to those trying to lead the profession”

Messages like this are unhelpful to those trying to lead the profession and run organisations in the face of extreme challenge.

What they need is support, evidence and data to make the case to their boards about the value of nursing.

They need a national evidence base that enables them to prove to their boards that cutting nursing staff is too great a sacrifice.

They need hard data proving that if the financial director doesn’t find the money it will be patients that pay the price in the short term, and risks the organisation paying more in the longer term – whether that’s in longer stays, readmissions, legal problems or loss of contracts.

“Nurses must learn how to stop saying yes and start saying no”

What they don’t need is unhelpful, vague messaging that at best leaves the gate open to interpreting nursing as insufficiently valuable to fund adequately, and at worst enables those running organisations to once again treat nursing as readily disposable.

Nursing directors, ward managers and other senior nurses must be empowered to articulate the value and contribution of their profession, and translate that into how that affects care.

Nurses must learn how to stop saying yes and start saying no. Because saying no is probably the only way to keep patients safe in this current environment.

Everyone in nursing needs to hold their line instead of toeing the party line. 

Jenni Middleton, editor
Follow me on Twitter: @nursingtimesed


Read all the news and announcements from the congress on the Directors’ of Nursing Congress page

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