Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

'Nurses need a strategy to fix the workforce crisis'

  • 18 Comments

At the Nursing Times Deputies’ Congress, taking place this week, we asked the audience if they thought the country had the right strategy to handle the nursing workforce crisis we face. I was hardly surprised when 96% of the delegates thought it did not. 

In fact, as far as I can see, there doesn’t seem to be any strategy at all.

For several years, there has been a shortage of nurses, but these have now been joined by figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council revealing the nursing register is shrinking and latest UCAS figures showing fewer people want to train as nurses at university.

Many nurses here in Leeds reflected the views of others I speak to – they believe that there is no national strategy for the nursing workforce.

Joining me on stage and listening to the result of our snap poll on workforce strategy were, among others, NMC chief executive Jackie Smith and Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies. Ms Davies’ reaction to the workforce crisis was clear – “Don’t panic,” she urged.

She asked the deputy chief nurses in the room to do what they can to keep their nurses and make them feel valued, make sure they have breaks, have water, and give them training and development where possible.

“That’s what really motivates nurses,” she said.

Ms Smith agreed that this was not a time to panic. I asked her about the current stocktake of its English language testing system, and the current pressure on the NMC to reduce the score to allow more nurses from overseas to practise in the UK.

In the room, deputy chief nurses nodded and commented that reducing the score would be helpful. But Ms Smith held firm, arguing that any change would only be in reaction to the workforce pressures, not because it protects the public.

Much as the regulator will make itself unpopular with nursing directors and overseas nurses if it does not reduce the score, its job is public protection not widening the gates to help solve a workforce crisis that was caused by the coalition government and worsened by the current administration.

Is it just me, or does it seem odd that people are turning to the regulator to fix this problem? Surely, it’s the job of ministers and the chief nursing officers to build a strategy to fix the workforce challenges? How can it be that we expect the regulator to lower the safety bar?

According to the deputy chief nurses I’ve been sharing a conference room with for the past 24 hours, what they need is a strategy. And perhaps more than that, what they want is a ray of hope that someone, somewhere is doing some thinking about this, and that plan is not just “make it easier to join the register”.

  • 18 Comments

Readers' comments (18)

  • It is no surprise to me to hear this either. The fact is that nurse numbers have been dwindling ever since the introduction of the degree level course. Prior to this, the profession lost untold numbers of Level 2 State Enrolled Nurses and stopped training more. So many people would love to train as a nurse but don't have the academic requirements to follow a degree course. Surely this is where the strategy needs to start - by looking at whether the existing system is fit for purpose and is attracting the best possible nurses of the future. The time has long past to be talking about this - we should be panicking about the future if no action is taken without any further delay!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Sadly, they've been lowering the bar for years...

    More water?
    Why do we need to ensure that nurses get enough hydration? Oh that's right. Because their work load is so heavy and their shifts are so long, they haven't the time to drink.

    Proper breaks?
    Why would we need to ensure nurses get proper breaks? Oh yes that's right. Because nurses are so short staffed, rushed off their feet and required to do so much admin along side their actual nursing, that they haven't the time to take their breaks
    Training and development?
    Why training and development? Oh yes that's right, so managers can extend our role and get us to do even MORE tasks usually the domain of other types of practitioners.

    Made to feel more valued? Hmmm why do we need to be made to feel valued? That really can't be right...afterall what would make me feel valued was if I was paid enough, and had enough sufficiently qualified colleagues to work with so that we could all do the job properly.
    Funny how these two requirements weren't mentioned.

    Perhaps the secretary failed to list pay as something that would make us feel valued because she has just received a nice pay rise of her own- along with the chief exec. - and it simply isn't an issue for her...I bet she feels highly valued...
    And as for 'Don't panic' - how patronising.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • How patronising of her! Water?
    Nursing education places have been cut for years, leading to a convenient gap in supply for the management because it facilitates them creating new roles - made up of bits of nursing but paid at care assistant levels. Everybody at that conference knows it.
    In the future we will be able to read history books about what nurses used to do. That will be the only place to see them.
    If there aren't enough nurses the government will create something "better" and call it investing in integrated generic health and social care workforce.
    Nursing isnt protected in this country and our leaders sit in nice offices and conference halls while we try to cope without enough staff, without pay rises (and don't forget the third of nurses not in the NHS) and are criticised and regulated to oblivion.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • It is a shame that these basic principles are not widely applied by those in management. They will struggle to retain their excellent staff who are overworked and undervalued but sadly it appears that this is not their priority. Why go abroad to recruit nurses when there are qualified and trained U.K nurses who can be retained if properly treated?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • ANONYMOUS19 JULY, 2017 11:14 AM

    Sadly, they've been lowering the bar for years...

    More water?
    Why do we need to ensure that nurses get enough hydration? Oh that's right. Because their work load is so heavy and their shifts are so long, they haven't the time to drink.

    Proper breaks?
    Why would we need to ensure nurses get proper breaks? Oh yes that's right. Because nurses are so short staffed, rushed off their feet and required to do so much admin along side their actual nursing, that they haven't the time to take their breaks
    Training and development?
    Why training and development? Oh yes that's right, so managers can extend our role and get us to do even MORE tasks usually the domain of other types of practitioners.

    Made to feel more valued? Hmmm why do we need to be made to feel valued? That really can't be right...afterall what would make me feel valued was if I was paid enough, and had enough sufficiently qualified colleagues to work with so that we could all do the job properly.
    Funny how these two requirements weren't mentioned.

    Perhaps the secretary failed to list pay as something that would make us feel valued because she has just received a nice pay rise of her own- along with the chief exec. - and it simply isn't an issue for her...I bet she feels highly valued...
    And as for 'Don't panic' - how patronising.

    Excellent post Anonymous 11:14

    Jackie Smith doesn't care, Jane Cummings doesn't care nor do their overpaid deputies and that is part of the problem with our profession.

    They should be sacked.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Can someone please explain all this?
    What happened to minimum nursing levels?
    I want a healthy nurse who is well paid and healthy to look after me and everyone I love in hospital.

    If I was a nurse in an understaffed hospital and I knew at the back of my mind there will be a disaster sooner or later and the NMC would blame me even though I could not be everywhere at once and I had stopped taking my breaks and I was coping with too many patients, I'd leave.

    I'd email everybody I could to get more staff but I know that I'd be ignored so I'd leave.

    I don't think Jane Cummings has any actual power:
    The pay comes from the Secretary of Health and Government.
    Trusts decide on how many nurses they need.

    The problem is you, the nurses, have no power. You have responsibility but you have no power and you need to reach out to the public and show them how hard and difficult really is nursing now.

    Me? All I can do is tell you how much I love you and hug you all

    LOVE
    PDaveAngel





    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The power Jane Cummings has is to tell Hunt and the Govt how it really is in the nursing profession but she doesn't appear to do that , maybe why she is so well paid.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Remember the 6cs and its music video?
    That was Jane's doing.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • We appear to be led by morons. More water and proper breaks? Seriously? You couldn't make it up!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Fantastic, I won't retire now I know I am going to get water and proper breaks because that has made me feel SO valued. What a fantastic strategy to ensure patients are cared for, safely and effectively. I don't know if I dare ask whether they could run to sparkling water..................!!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Show 1020results per page

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.