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

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.

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.

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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:

“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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