NHS in workforce crisis

3 June 2015 The NHS has announced it is considering creating a new category of nurse, as agency staff bill soars.

4 Jun 2015| News

3 June 2015

The NHS has announced it is considering creating a new category of nurse, as agency staff bill soars.

Ian Cumming, the chief executive of Health Education England (HEE), said;

“They would nurse patients. They would care for patients under the supervision of registered nurses. So they would have an expanded skill set compared to the healthcare support worker on the ward, but they wouldn’t be a registered nurse,” said Cumming.

“The NHS is telling us that they want and need something in the middle, something between a healthcare support worker and a registered nurse.” The new staff could start looking after patients after 18-24 months’ training, less than the three years needed to get a nursing degree.

Health Education England, which spends £5bn a year ensuring that the NHS has the workforce it needs, ran a consultation on how to deal with the chronic shortage of nurses of which this recommendation was the result.

However, the chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing commented; “There’s overwhelming evidence that patients have better outcomes when they are cared for by graduate nurses, and any proposals must avoid diluting the skill mix of staff, which would have an impact on patient care.”

According the the Nuffield trust, the NHS’ staffing crisis cannot simply be solved by expanding its workforce. Nurses are being undervalued and misused, with the NHS bearing a “massive bill for agency staffing because it can’t get enough permanent nurses to join hospital trusts”. The cost of agency staffing has leapt by 31 percent over a single year. Cameron’s plans for the health service which include a 7-day NHS parallel with £22bn of cuts, will only exasperate the problem, with staff burnout being a realistic consequence. The trust says the NHS workforce is showing “clear signs of stress and disengagement” as a result of working conditions;

“The Nuffield Trust argues that [hospitals relying on agency staff, problems recruiting and retaining GPs and a rise in staff sick leave due to stress], together with the continued effects of holding down staff pay, suggest that disengagement and burnout could hamper progress at a time of immense pressure on the NHS”.

Head of health at Unite, which has 100,000 members employed by the NHS, Barrie Brown said:

“Unite wants the agency bill slashed and permanent nursing staff and other health professionals employed with proper training and development in place, coupled with robust recruitment and retention policies.

“Media reports that some of the bosses of these staffing agencies are living a five-star high life on the profits levered out of the financially challenged NHS will sicken those on waiting lists for hospital treatment.

“The money going to these agencies could be quickly redirected towards helping patients get the care they deserve and that permanent staff are fairly rewarded for their work for all their patients.”