Inside or outside the NHS - all healthcare providers are interrogating their spreadsheets.
The chief executives of trusts and private companies may consider “red lining” through many a group of nurses just to save costs. As the biggest workforce in the healthcare community, nursing salaries are undoubtedly flashing brightly on the budget sheets. But it is wrong to just slash and burn this cost, because it is nurses who have one of the biggest impacts - if not the biggest - on care. Not only do they manage the patient experience, monitor safety and wellbeing of patients 24 hours a day and see their homes, their relationships and therefore their support network close at hand, but also they save costs by running nurse-led services that keep the public healthy and out of expensive surgery and consultant-led clinics.
But unless you’re working in one of the places that listens to its nursing workforce, it can be tough to ensure those making decisions about cuts understand the implications of their choices. The Safer Nursing Care Tool (see news ‘Nurses can prove safety in numbers’) helps with calculating safe staffing levels to provide evidence for your case.
But you’ll still need the skills to manage upwards and deliver that information. It’s a mistake to make demands with no empathy for the wider situation, but so is neglecting to ensure those on the board really know what is happening on the wards. That’s why the Nursing and Midwifery Council says all nurses are responsible for escalating concerns.
Mid Staffs demonstrates the devastating consequences of losing sight of the people who matter, and with cuts all around, nurses’ antennae need to be more in tune than ever before. I am not suggesting for a moment that when staffing levels are inadequate it’s nurses’ fault - far from it. In most cases, nurses are phenomenal at keeping management informed. But sometimes, difficult conversations are avoided. It takes bravery and passion to bring up these issues. But they are two characteristics that most of the nurses I’ve met aren’t lacking in.