New nursing workforce standards set out expectations for employers, regulators, and national organisations

The fourteen standards are designed to support patient safety and enable the nursing workforce to deliver safe and effective care.

James McKay
10 May 2021
Healthcare workers in PPE

They are designed to support patient safety and enable the nursing workforce to deliver safe and effective care.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has kicked off International Nurses’ Week by launching its first-ever nursing workforce standards.

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Fourteen standards set out detailed expectations the College has for employers, regulators, and national organisations to support patient safety and enable the UK’s nursing workforce to deliver safe and effective care.

The new standards include; assigning responsibility for adequate safe staffing levels to executive nurses, having a contingency plan in place in the event of a major incident, ensuring staff can access adequate training and professional development, and ensures trust boards or senior management teams are informed if a substantive nursing workforce falls below 80%.

They also call upon employers to ensure staff are treated with dignity, respect and are recognised and valued through fair pay, terms and conditions.

With more than 50,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS alone across the UK, an over-reliant on bank or agency staff has also be called out alongside the practice of student nurses and non-clinical staff being included in staffing numbers. A problem exacerbated by the pandemic, the College claims.

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Launching the new standards, Royal College of Nursing Acting Chief Executive and General Secretary, Pat Cullen, said: “The survey shows that patients experience nursing staff being rushed off their feet and want to know what is being done about it. At no time has this been more evident than during the pandemic.

“The shortage of nursing staff across all specialisms in the profession, in the NHS and independent sector, compromises patient safety. We are acting to address this by setting out these Standards that must underpin workforce planning. These standards must be consistently applied across the UK.

“Nursing is the largest safety critical profession in healthcare and it’s vital that we have the right staff, with the right skills, in the right place, at the right time.”

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Chief Executive and Registrar Andrea Sutcliffe CBE added that the “useful guidance” from the RCN could help nurses to “navigate the operational challenges they face to deliver the safe, kind and effective care our communities need.”

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