We all know the role of a nurse is crucial to delivering the best possible care to those who need it the most. But with the constant efficiency savings and budget cuts, how can they continue doing what they do best? Often trusts across the country decide to reduce the number of staff on the frontline or make savings by deciding not to recruit to posts as quickly as they should. This has a huge impact on the quality of care being delivered. Worryingly, this isn’t just an isolated problem. With the population living for longer, the demand for nursing staff has also increased and presents a challenge in itself.
Figures have shown that in December 2015, there were 23,443 vacant nursing posts across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. If we don’t have enough nurses on the frontline, how do we expect good care to be delivered? The NHS needs to invest in nursing staff to build a better future for patients.
Nursing is about caring for patients and supporting them to live well. Patients need to be at the centre of everything nurses do, every decision they make and every care plan they produce. We need nurses who are focused on putting patients at the heart of everything - with the 6cs in mind. Nurses have to be compassionate, caring, competent, able to communicate well, committed and courageous. Having these qualities means a nurse is able to deliver exceptional care.
But we all know what happens when these qualities are not at the heart of good nursing practice: poor staff morale which leads to poor care; something which many enquiries highlighted including the Francis report in 2012. In order to create a culture where nurses feel supported and recognised for their good work, we need to care for them.
A report published by the Royal College of Nursing in 2013 showed that 82% of nurses went to work despite feeling unwell and unfit to do their role. Nurses mentioned that they felt under pressure and obliged to go to work due to the stringent sickness policies and the pressure they felt from their line managers.
This is very worrying. How can we expect someone who is feeling unwell to take care of other people who are also unwell? Nurse leaders need help to support, develop and nurture talent at all levels. I know it’s really difficult for managers to keep safer staffing levels across hospitals but caring for all staff is also key to delivering the best possible care.
Figures show that sickness in the NHS costs the taxpayer £2.4bn a year, which accounts for around £1 in every £40 of the total budget. We can change this. If nurses are genuinely cared for and if we invest in their development, we could have happier nurses in the workplace. In the long term this could save the taxpayer billions of pounds – money which could be spent elsewhere – perhaps on bringing in more nurses to fill the staff shortages.
It’s a simple message really; our nursing staff are the present and the future of the health service, especially those delivering care. They will make or break the health service. Investing in our staff is the only way we’ll deliver the care our patients and their families deserve.
Clare Price-Dowd is a registered nurse and senior programme lead for the NHS Leadership Academy