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Report shows ‘too few staff on duty’ for nurses to be able to safely take breaks

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The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has said that it agreed with the findings of the Health Select Committee and more needs to be done to retain the nursing workforce.

Earlier this week, MPs were told, as part of an investigation into the nursing workforce by the Commons’ health select committee’s, that nurses often arrived early for shifts, finished late and were not able to take breaks because there were too few staff on duty – potentially leaving clinical areas unsafe if they do.

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The report, published by members of the Health Select Committee today, titled The Nursing Workforce, calls for immediate action to be taken by England’s Cheif Nursing (CNO) officer to ensure staff have safe and acceptable” working conditions.

It outlined several key points;

  • A significant increase in the number of nursing vacancies.
  • Some nurses lack basic facilities during their breaks or even the time to take them.
  • Inadequate staffing levels to ensure all staff can be released for breaks.
  • Nurses felt that they were not allowed to sit down and spend time talking to patients over a cup of tea.
  • Nurses were having to stay late in order to complete effective handovers.
  • Nursing shortages having a negative impact on the quality and safety of patient care within both community and hospital settings.
  • Nurses are clearly concerned that the increasing pressure is having an impact on their ability to deliver safe care. They bear personal responsibility for the delivery of that care.
  • The removal of the NHS bursary and the impact this has on applications from mature students into nursing degrees.
  • Major changes to the routes into nursing and the introduction of nursing associates and nursing apprenticeships
  • A ‘plain English’ guide to the nursing associate role and responsibilities.

The report added, “There are particularly worrying shortfalls in certain sectors–district nursing and in nursing homes, mental health and learning disability nursing” and admitting “Whilst training new nurses is important, there has been a loss of focus on retaining the current workforce”.

The MPs called for the Chief Nursing Officer to write to all directors of nursing, including in social care providers, asking them to confirm whether nurses were able to complete handovers without routinely staying late and whether they have time to take their breaks.

Jackie Smith, the Nursing and Midwifery Council Chief Executive and Registrar, said:

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“Today’s report from the Health Committee recognises the “unacceptable pressures” on nurses and the call for action at pace.

“Cuts to Continuing Professional Development (CPD) are a major issue and I fully support the Committee’s recommendation that funding allocations should be ring-fenced. Providing much needed development opportunities is key to career progression and ensuring that we are investing in a workforce that can meet the demands of a population with complex needs.

“While it is vital we create new routes in, urgent action is needed to retain the workforce as nurses are leaving the profession and our own data shows this. Developing a national data set is something we fully support.

“In January 2017, we were asked to become the regulator for nursing associates and the first group will begin practising next year. There must be clear blue water between the role of a nursing associate and a registered nurse. We welcome the Committee’s recommendation that nursing associates have a clear professional identity, which is also of paramount importance to the public.”

“In January 2017, we were asked to become the regulator for nursing associates and the first group will begin practising next year.  There must be clear blue water between the role of a nursing associate and a registered nurse.  We welcome the Committee’s recommendation that nursing associates have a clear professional identity, which is also of paramount importance to the public.”

You can review the full list of recommendations here.

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Mobile Stroke Unit will see patients receive life-saving care faster than ever

This the first time a Mobile Stroke Unit, a concept developed by the University of the Saarland in Germany, has been tested in the UK.

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Southend University Hospital is undertaking the trial of a Mobile Stroke Unit which will see patients receive life-saving care faster than ever.

The Mobile Stroke Unit, which has an onboard CT scanner and blood-testing equipment, will be staffed by stroke and imaging experts who can diagnose and start treating patients with suspected stroke at the scene.

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This the first time a Mobile Stroke Unit, a concept developed by the University of the Saarland in Germany, has been tested in the UK.

Lead Stroke Consultant at Southend, Dr Paul Guyler explains its importance: “It’s widely known that ‘time is brain’ when it comes to stroke.  When a patient is suspected to have had a stroke a CT scan is essential to allow specialists to determine whether the patient has a blood clot in the brain, a bleed in the brain or something else. 

“The scan determines the diagnosis and what treatment happens next, and the Mobile Stroke Unit brings the scanner and the clinicians to the patient.”

Should a stroke be diagnosed, life-saving clot-busting medications can be administered to the patient quicker than ever before.

The Trust was offered the opportunity, to test the specialist ambulance in the community for a short period of time.  This was made possible because of the of the strong links between Consultant Interventional Neuroradiologist Professor Iris Grunwald, who works at the Trust and also holds the post of Director of Neuroscience at Anglia Ruskin University School of Medicine, and her colleagues at the University of the Saarland, Germany who are supplying the vehicle free of charge.

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The unit will be based at Southend to ensure safety and governance standards are met and Professor Grunwald has been working with the Trust’s stroke team to put plans into place.  Anglia Ruskin University and the team will be evaluating the information collected during the project. 

Professor Grunwald said: “We know that Mobile Stroke Units work in a densely populated city through trials carried out in Germany, Norway, Australia and the USA.

“The data and learning we gather during the period the vehicle is in use will be valuable in understanding the benefits and challenges of using a Mobile Stroke Unit in a more suburban or rural area, like we have across mid and south Essex.”

While the project is limited to a three-month period, the stroke team are looking to the future and hope that the information they gather over the 12 weeks will help inform plans to develop stroke services across mid and south Essex.

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UNISON accepts 3% pay deal for Scotland

UNISON Scotland has accepted a 3% pay rise for NHS staff and demands for it to be implemented ‘without delay’.

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UNISON Scotland has accepted a 3% pay rise for NHS staff and demands for it to be implemented ‘without delay’.

During the union’s annual health conference in Brighton today, the union has said it will accept a pay deal which would secure an above-inflation 3% wage rise for the all NHS workers in Scotland and has called for it to be implemented with immediate effect.

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Two weeks ago the Scottish Government tabled a ‘draft pay remit’ which proposes NHS staff earning less than £80,000 will receive 3% increase on pay and allowances.

UNISON Scotland has today announced that they will accept this proposed deal.

Tom Waterson, Chair of the UNISON Scotland Health Committee, said: “It was UNISON’s campaign in health, and across the public sector, which convinced the Scottish government to scrap the pay cap. It has tabled a pay remit paper that says all staff earning less than £80,000 are to receive an immediate 3% increase on pay and allowances, while talks craft a Scottish version of the NHS offer currently being consulted on in England.

“UNISON Scotland accepts the offer of 3% and demands that it‘s implemented without further delay. This agreement is an important first step to securing a Scottish deal for Scottish NHS workers, and we’re determined that it will deliver for our staff and roll back the pain of austerity.

“There appears to be a view that the 2018 pay award should be held off until the NHS pay offer is concluded in England. That is not acceptable. Shona Robison, cabinet secretary for health has committed to giving NHS workers a pay rise, the government has promised 3% and UNISON won’t allow anyone to delay the implementation of that rise.”

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The pay remit is expected to be discussed over the next few days by Scotland’s health unions. If agreed it would secure a “no detriment” deal, ensuring that Scottish NHS workers would not be worse off than their English colleagues, who are currently being balloted on a pay offer in England.

UNISON says it won’t be balloting NHS Scotland members on the England offer, but has committed to do so on the final outcome of Scottish negotiations.

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‘Overworked’ healthcare assistants being expected to do the work of nurses

UNISON is calling on the government to address staffing issues so that HCAs feel properly supported and patients receive the care they deserve.

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Healthcare assistants are being expected to do the work of nurses without adequate training or proper supervision, according to survey results published today by UNISON.

Nearly two-thirds say they are being left to care for patients without enough support from doctors and nurses. The impact is that almost two in five of HCAs say they do not feel confident that those they are caring for are safe.

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The findings are based on a survey of nearly 2,000 HCAs across the UK with the majority working in hospitals, as well as in mental health, in the community and in GP practices.

More than half say they have not received adequate training for performing tasks such as dressing the wounds of patients, giving out medication and changing stoma bags.

The report also highlights how nursing and other staff shortages are to blame for nearly three-quarters of HCAs having to take on extra work, according to UNISON.

Healthcare assistants say the situation has been worse this winter (2017/18) compared to the year before. Well over half say that they have picked up extra work due to nursing or clinical staff shortages. Also, two in five say they were asked to carry out tasks without adequate training more often than last winter, and over a third said they were asked to perform tasks without supervision more frequently than last year.

Janet, a healthcare assist from Croydon, said: “Trusts are trying to make use of HCAs, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can put patients at risk. I work as a maternity support officer on a band 3. There is a divide at the trust I work for between the people that have worked there a long time and those of us that are newer to the job. People who have been in the job longer have received different training that doesn’t cover everything we’re expected to do these days. Since I started two years ago there’s more pressure on us, and we’re taking on more responsibilities.”

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UNISON is calling on the government to address staffing issues so that HCAs feel properly supported and patients receive the care they deserve.

Sara Gorton, Head of Health at UNISON, said: “Healthcare assistants are being left to fill staffing gaps and do vital tasks without recognition or reward. It’s bad for them and bad for patients.

“It is important these staff receive training for all the extra responsibilities they’re expected to take on.

“It’s clear the pressures on them to act as nurse substitutes have increased over the winter. The government needs to show they value healthcare assistants by investing in their training.”

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