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Why is no-one steering nursing off the rocks?


Could we do something now to stop the nursing workforce crisis, or are we going to continue watching numbers fall and stand idly by? 

When will the tipping point come when someone actually realises… hold on, we have to do something about this now.

Following the referendum vote last year and the introduction of new, and many say tougher, English language testing, the Royal College of Nursing has announced that the number of EU nurses joining the Nursing and Midwifery Council register has fallen dramatically.

An average of 194 nurses registered each month from September to December in 2016, compared to 797 in the same period the previous year.

“We are so thin on the ground with registered nurses that we are having to bring in a new role”

All this would be fine of course if we were growing our own, and if retention was superb because we were paying nurses well and valuing them… but of course none of that is happening. We are so thin on the ground with registered nurses that we are having to bring in a new role – the nursing associate – that is already being proposed in some places as a substitute for registered nurse vacancies.

Add in the fact that one in three nurses will be retiring in the next 10 years and you can see we find ourselves in something of a crisis. But has anyone who can do something about it actually acknowledged this point publicly? Done anything about it? Said what they intend to do?

The RCN is putting pressure on the government to try to guarantee jobs for EU nurses who are already working in the NHS.

“The fact that the unions are having to launch this campaign demonstrates how little the government understands”

We’ve already announced that we understand the RCN and other unions are trying to get a campaign off the ground to make sure overseas nurses know that they are valued and welcome to stay.

But the fact that the unions are having to launch this campaign demonstrates how little the government understands the significance of the overseas workforce, who are propping up the NHS.

Where are the ministers rallying around to try to reassure those nurses from overseas that they will keep their jobs once we exit the EU? Where is the sense of urgency from the health secretary? Why is it that no one seems to understand that we are in a ship lacking sufficient crew and something needs to be done now or we – patients, the profession and the service – could find ourselves on the rocks?



Readers' comments (8)

  • Sadly, the powers that be don't care. It's just another nail in the coffin of what was the NHS.

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  • The impossible is being asked of our nursing workforce, they are overworked and underpaid and no matter how many incidents occur, nothing is done about the situation.
    Our unions need to take drastic measures.

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  • Jenni, I have been saying for the last couple of years that we need to have a national campaign to recruit and retain nurses. Similar campaigns proved successful for teaching so why would this not work for nursing?
    Nursing is a tough job, with newly qualified staff facing demands that us old hands never had to face straight away. We need to develop, nurture and lead by example if we are to move the profession on - time for action - let's put nursing and nurses back on the map!

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  • A quote form anon "bring the NHS to its knees so privatisaton will be welcomed with open arms"

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  • Nurses are not very good at being able to verbalise exactly what it is we do. Therefore the government and powers that be seem to think anyone can do nursing. To my horror I am seeing many new band 2 and 3 jobs being advertised with bits of nursing thrown in. Admin and clerical jobs which include assisting doctors with core biopsy of the breast, control of bleeding and wound dressings. There is no recognition of the social learning processes that enable nurses to be with and support patients who are vulnerable and terrified of what a test may reveal, or how nurses Learn to support patients psychologically as well as physically. How are the few proper nurses remaining going to supervise all the new roles plus apprentices, just out of school who are now permitted to do personal and intimate care and task orientated procedures as if they are being performed on a machine, rather than a human being with feelings?

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  • District Nursing is in dire straights in some areas....there are NO doors and no waiting lists! The nursing staff are leaving and not being replaced (except by band 3 &4 non nurse registered staff with lots of responsibilities) the staff are expected to achieve impossible workloads and they still get in trouble when they havent had time to complete paperwork properly.
    We are still being told that we cant have any more staff and need to cut costs so even if there were more nurses we couldnt have them!!!

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  • What about a campaign to make British Nurses feel valued then we may not have recruit so heavily from overseas. There are hundreds of thousands of British nurses who have left the register who would return to the NHS in a heartbeat if there were return to practice courses available, decent working conditions (not the endemic bullying in the NHS which currently passes for leadership), and an end to internal rotation (why shouldn't NHS nurses have the right to choose whether to work days or nights like they did in the past?).

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  • Anthony Johnson

    Surely it's the fact that they don't appreciate registered nurses and want to do away with them so that they can have the servile majority that they hope Nurse Associates will be? If only nurses we're willing to flex their industrial muscles...

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