We don’t have enough nurses. We’ve got it wrong. We need to correct that fast.
You know those book reviews that condense the book into a 30-second read, saving you the three or four hours it might otherwise have taken to trawl through the epic tome? Well the first three sentences of this column are the 15-second version of the health select committee’s report on the nursing workforce, published a couple of weeks ago. If you don’t have the time to read it, there it is in a nutshell.
But I would urge you to make time to read it because it’s a clear and honest account of the situation the profession now finds itself in. The authors could have sweetened the pill by claiming the nursing associate role would fix the problem. They didn’t because they know it won’t.
The committee could have said everything would be all right and that the problem wasn’t that bad. It didn’t – it acknowledged that this is a crisis that’s worse than we’ve ever seen before.
The report could have ignored the impact of that crisis on the individuals who are currently propping up the healthcare system. It didn’t – it listened to nurses, from community and hospital settings, and used their words to support its conclusions about the urgency and scale of the challenge.
”The nurses’ greatest concern was the impact of their exhaustion and dwindling numbers on patients.”
Nursing Times submitted evidence to the health select committee from chief nurses who attended our Directors’ Congress in October last year. As a result of reading that evidence, the committee asked us to help them talk to more nurses; we set up groups of frontline nurses at our Team Leaders’ Congress and the Royal London Hospital.
Those nurses expressed real anguish at being undervalued – their continuing professional development slashed and pay cut while their breaks are non-existent and their hours extend into unpaid overtime because there is no one to safely hand over to. But the nurses’ greatest concern was the impact of their exhaustion and dwindling numbers on patients.
I’ve said this before about earlier reports exposing the desperate situation with nursing resources. I hope this report will have a positive effect.
If government ministers are too busy to read more than my 15-second review, they will be missing how much damage they are doing to nurses, the health and social care system – and patients.