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'This government has failed to prioritise the nursing workforce crisis'


Remember when hospitals were asked to publish their nurse staffing levels in the wake of the Francis report into care failings at Mid Staffordshire? 

It was an attempt to show that the government knew that transparency and openness about such things was important. It suggested that the government recognised that nursing care and the number of people available to do it had a direct impact on the outcomes, safety and experience of patients. It gave many in the health service hope that these things would be prioritised.

False hope, as it turns out. In the space of just four years, we now find ourselves in a situation where reporting the figures is a moot point because we are thousands and thousands short of nurses, with no hope of ever having enough unless something dramatic happens.

What was the point of asking people to report their staffing levels if you were never going to invest in enough nurses to reach what is considered a safe level? In fact, the coalition government and successive Conservative governments have disinvested in nursing, and the profession has arguably found itself at rock bottom.

Nurse establishments have become a joke, as nurse directors are so far away from those numbers because they are unable to use agency staff, their overseas workforce have left; their UK-trained nurses are leaving the profession in droves, and now those applying to do nursing courses are down.

Jeremy Hunt’s plan to flood the market with nursing associates is all very well, but it’s still a while off and won’t solve our problems now. If he continues to try to drive thousands more nursing associates through the system, he is merely robbing the service and social care of its healthcare assistant workers, who are propping up care. He is just moving the problem around, not solving the real gaps.

According to research published last week in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, we now have the clearest indication of the link between missed care and mortality, and the importance of degree-level nursing in outcomes. The findings, the latest analysis of data from the seminal RN4CAST study, shows there is a causal relationship between registered nurse staffing levels and patient mortality.

“If there are not enough registered nurses on hospital wards, necessary care is left undone, and people’s lives are put at risk,” according to one of the report’s authors Dr Jane Ball, principal research fellow at the University of Southampton.

Our longest-serving health secretary has paid lip service to patient safety on every stage and every podium up and down the country since he started this job, but his worthy words must sound hollow to the thousands of nurses struggling to provide care safely. His government has done everything it can to rob the health and social care system of its nurses and, as a result, ensured those in need of care are left wanting.

Care is being missed, lives are being endangered and also lost. Because this government has failed to prioritise the nursing workforce crisis, and continues to disinvest in it by failing to provide adequate funding for pay, conditions and post-registration training, while also removing student bursaries to save a few quid at a time when the future of the profession was already hanging by a thread.

”It is already too late to save the massive holes we currently have in the profession”

The RN4CAST study looked at care missed on the wards of 31 acute trusts. However, that is not the only place where care is being missed – the government also seems to be missing the ability to care about exactly what it has done for this profession and the patients it serves.

It is already too late to save the massive holes we currently have in the profession, but if they reverse some of their devastating decisions now, we might just manage to keep nursing alive.

If ever there was a time for a U-turn on pay, the bursary and investment into continuing professional development, this is it.






Readers' comments (2)

  • Elmon Paul

    Four years ago when I left England, the country wasn't needed any overseas nurses programmes care workers. In fact, the government have reformed the migration rules to crub it. Eventually, as a nurse from India also a graduate from UWE ( who I am) hadn't have any choice other than leave the country. Well, while I look back I feel pity and pathetic to see the current scenario of nursing shortage in the UK.

    Today, NHS is despartely looking for overseas nurses from India and Philippines as well was Ghanaians. Sadly, I must admit that fact the UK is no longer got destination for overseas nurses due to various reasons. Firstly, toughest controversial competency exams like IELTS, CBT and OSCE. Secondly, changes in the rules of Permanent residents for foreigners ( basic requirement 35000 pounds salary per year) Well, hard to imagine. Finally, substantial shortages of staff lead to risk and dangers. Obviously, people rather prefer Australia, New Zealand and Canada's who there is much more room for permanent settlement and less hardship at work places.

    Competitive examination is the most important reason why candidates are suffering. They set the IELTS band score requirement was at the level of Cambridge university level which is certainly unjustifiable at all. An overtly majority of candidates have lost their for a mere 0.5 marks particularly in writting module. Therefore, only a few prefer to take such tests.

    In addition, by 2014, NMC introduced CBT and OSCE instead of adaptation program (ONP) for overseas nurses. So far, the success rate is just about 50 percent in first attempt. Overall, 60 per cent. This is also a contributing reason for the plunge.

    Introducing IELTS for EUROPEAN citizens, in fact fueled the nursing crisis and BREXIT made it worse. Along with paycap turn to be a nightmare for the nurses in the UK.

    Also, Nurses who are post graduates and graduates with considerably experienced in various fields of health care is not able to pass OSCE which is seems to be mysteriously sad for nurses.

    Despite the shortages of 40000 general nurses and 20000 psychiatric and mental health nurses, the government and NMC is not At alI ready to consider the situation proactively and constructively. They are stand still on their believe and concept where citizens were tormented and dying for help. Why this merciless attitudes from them, yet to find.

    There is instant panacea for this crisis other than depending on overseas. However, it would pretty difficult at this moment. If the UK and NMC reduce the IELTS writting score by 0.5 margins would have made an undeniable impact in favour of NHS.

    Certainly, communication skills is important and patients safety should not compromised at any stage. Nevertheless, setting up the level is unattainable would not help neither NHS or candidates. Also, it goes similarly with CBT and OSCE as well.

    I believe, overseas nursing program was the ideal course for overseas nurses rather than CBT and OSCE. In fact, ONP can enable foreign candidates to adapt with new environment, culture and local languages and high standard of European care. Unfortunately, nothing is right at the moment in the UK and nothing wouldn't be helping people.

    The only benefit who received was private organisations who runs these tests and private hospitals. Who cares, only common man generally bullied and traumatised.

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  • Elmon Paul has made the perfect comment, well I just don't see the reason of making oversees nurses face 3 tough exams whilst EU nurses don't when their (NMC) main reason for the exam is safety of the patients. ONP was more ideal.

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