Introduction of a safe nurse staffing law and a commitment to at least maintain current levels of whole time-equivalent NHS nurses must be priorities for the next Welsh government, the Royal College of Nursing in Wales has said.
Ahead of the National Assembly for Wales election next May, the union has called for parties to include a range of commitments in their manifestos.
The first should be a law that requires health boards to publicly demonstrate they are providing safe levels of nursing care on acute medical wards, said the college in its policy document, Time to Care (see PDF, top-right).
“Nurses are ready for the challenges that the next few years will bring, because they see it as an opportunity for more joint working and innovations”
The RCN said it also wanted the same proposed legal duty to be extended to community care, but prior to that health boards should be required to publish the skill mix of teams and how many patients were cared for in this setting.
It has also called on parties to ensure there was no cut to the current number of whole-time equivalent NHS nurses in Wales, while specifically urging the future government to increase numbers of district nurses.
“The numbers of qualified district nurses in Wales are falling sharply,” said the RCN. “Some of this is due to changes to a more flexible modular approach to education which means nurses can train over a number of years, partly this is because new skills and knowledge are needed in the community.”
The college said the next government should ensure nurses were paid “fairly and consistently across the UK”, instead of different countries coming to separate decisions. In addition, it noted the importance of enhanced rates for working extra hours.
Access to continuing professional development was also highlighted by the union as a key area to be addressed by the next government.
It claimed many employers had suspended CPD for nurses and called for access to training to be monitored.
“In 2011, 25% of our members had received no CPD from their employer. In 2013, this figure rose to 43%. Indeed many local health boards have placed a moratorium on nursing staff being allowed to undertake any training. This is affecting all areas,” said the RCN’s policy document.
“We would urge all politicians in Wales irrespective of their party to read our document and take note of its content”
Tina Donnelly, director of RCN Wales, said: “We would urge all politicians in Wales irrespective of their party to read our document and take note of its content.
“By listening to the ideas of nurses and healthcare support workers we will be able to work together to improve the health of the people of Wales and safeguard healthcare services,” she said at the launch of the policy document.
Gaynor Jones, chair of the RCN Welsh Board, added: “Nurses are ready to work with local health boards and politicians in Wales to ensure the safety of the patient.
“Nurses are ready for the challenges that the next few years will bring, because they see it as an opportunity for more joint working and innovations in nursing to take shape,” she said.
Proposals for a safe nurse staffing law are already being considered in Wales.
However, a number of suggested amendments were called for and the bill will have to pass several futher stages of voting before potentially becoming legislation.