Planning around what the NHS can deliver this winter must be based on how many nursing staff are available and the workload they can safely take on, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned.
Amid widespread nursing shortages, the union has called on the government to “be honest” about nurse vacancies and address what steps need to be taken to keep staff and patients safe.
“It is essential that learning is applied to planning for this winter, including what service can be delivered safely with the workforce available”
Last week NHS England moved to its highest level of emergency preparedness. But the RCN warned it still had grave concerns around how services would be safely staffed, claiming it was too late to find the nurses needed to meet the anticipated demands of the incoming winter.
Despite an increase in the number of nurses registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council this year, the college said there were still around 40,000 nurse vacancies in the NHS in England alone.
These shortages, which were felt across all areas of nursing, had been exacerbated because of staff self-isolating or being off sick because of COVID-19, the RCN noted.
The impacts of workforce shortages meant there was “enormous responsibility” on the nurses working and “intolerable pressure” on senior nursing leaders, it said. Unless local staffing plans prioritised safe and high-quality care, the few nurses in post were at risk of “burn out” this winter, the college added.
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Source: Nursing Times, 9 November 2020