Is anyone thinking through the chaotic plans to address the nursing shortage?
Last week we saw the announcement of the consultation on the removal of the student bursary (read the story here).
The government claims this will ease the shortage because universities are only too keen to train more nurses, while prospective nurses are only too eager to take on student loans to qualify. So if we remove the limitations set by public funding, hey presto! Universities will suddenly be able to take on 10,000 extra students and every director of nursing in the land can fi ll their rotas without having to look overseas or pay expensive agency fees.
Well that’s all very well but, even if this theory is correct, it’s not going to solve the nursing shortage overnight is it? The 10,000 additional students to be taken on in 2017 won’t be ready to walk the wards or any other care setting until 2020. So what do we do in the meantime? Who is going to care for patients in the crowded wards, the under-resourced care sector and the struggling community services in the four years until then? Well the clever government has another plan up its sleeve – the nursing associate.
Apparently, nursing associates are a little like Superman – they can be wherever they are needed in split seconds, saving everyone. If we train just 1,000 of them they can instantly cover all the work the qualifi ed nurses don’t have enough time to do. They are magic, you see. Only, here’s the thing – no one has really thought through who is going to train this new elite group of band 4s – or where they will be trained. Most of the simulation labs and classrooms used when nurses did their training in hospitals have gone, as those activities are now done in universities. And when will the nursing associates be trained? Now that 12-hour shifts have taken over from eight-hour shifts across much of the NHS, the obvious teaching opportunities at handover have been lost.
And there’s more to be considered. How much will it cost to train them? And regulate them? And where are those millions coming from? I thought the NHS was trying to pay back a deficit.
I am not at all against training and developing healthcare assistants – it brings obvious benefi ts to them, the nursing profession, the NHS and patients. Could someone just think these issues through before launching consultations left, right and centre? It’s all very well having big ideas, but someone needs to work out the detail first.