Welcome to my Blog. I hope you find the posts interesting, informative and perhaps even entertaining(!). I'll update this Blog with my responses to topical stories of the day, important news and tales of my travels up and down the UK, meeting our inspirational nursing staff.

The RCN represents almost 400,000 nurses in the UK and is the country's largest nursing union.

Friday, 7 August 2009

De ja vu...

This commentary piece appears on the Telegraph website

When the nursing workforce reads that long term vacancies in the NHS have risen for the first time five years, I expect that they’ll feel an uneasy sense of de ja vu.

The statistics released show vacancies across the health service have increased, with no signs of the trend reversing. The situation today will worry some that we are returning to the shortages of the 1990s. Waiting lists were long, cancer screenings were delayed and the overall level of care to patients was far poorer than it should have been.

At a local level, every recent report into dire hospital failings has exposed worryingly low levels of nursing staff and a refusal to fill vacant posts, largely for financial reasons. This has led to terrible examples of healthcare and a poor standards for patients. Inadequate staffing levels can never an excuse for poor care, but they are a cause.

A leaked NHS planning document in early 2008 predicted a shortfall of 14,000 nurses by 2011. RCN figures have consistently stated that 200,000 nurses will retire over the next ten years and with no increases in recruitment, there will be no one to fill their shoes.

Put simply, nurses have been here before. When vacancy figures were last like this, they indicated dire consequences were to come. The past ten years has seen exceptional investment in the NHS and real progress for patients. Vacancy gaps like these threaten to undermine all this good work More must be done to recruit and retain nurses and politicians must realise that our health service is only as strong as the people on the ground.

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