While it’s positive that the government has committed to tackling
the issue of nursing supply, it’s clear that it will take more than just words
to secure the changes needed to ensure staffing for
safe and effective care is the norm in health and care settings
across the UK.
That’s why the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), in partnership with
Universities UK and the Council of Deans of Health, is urging the government to
encourage more people to study nursing at university.
Fortunately, we are at a point in time that is advantageous for influencing
how this might be done, with NHS England currently putting the finishing
touches to a ten-year Long Term Plan (LTP) to sustain and transform health and
care services. On this our message is clear: without investment to grow the
registered nursing workforce, the plan will fail.
It’s for this reason we have published some costed alternatives for higher
education funding in England, and developed a clear
set of principles to help inform the LTP and the impending Spending
Review. The principles – recently communicated to the Secretary of State – call
Substantial investment in nursing students and in the development of the existing workforce, including the funding for maintenance, tuition fees, continuing professional development and for hardship. These measures are needed to attract students onto courses, sustain them through registration and further on into a rewarding public service career.
An accountability framework – detailing whose responsibility it is to ensure an adequate supply of registered nurses, and nursing support staff, to meet the health and care needs of our population.
A workforce strategy with credible workforce plans at national, regional and local level – based on transparent, reported data, that reveals numbers and the skill mix in health and social care.
Like universities, the membership
of the RCN is motivated to secure the change that is needed. I was therefore
pleased to contribute to a policy breakfast produced last month by Health Services Research UK
and The Health
Foundation, which featured a rich discussion on the evidence for
safe staffing , and how we can translate the growing research base into safe
staffing practice, including through legislation.
Existing nursing staff and
struggling students need a clear signal that help is on the way: leaving
staffing levels and workforce plans to market forces is simply not working. The
growing political will to tackle this issue is a step in the right direction,
and universities are mobilised to do all they can. It is now for the NHS and
the government to be bold, and take the radical steps needed to solve this