We back committee’s call for more nurses

Together for Short Lives has backed MPs’ calls for the nursing workforce in England to be expanded at scale and pace - and for more action to reassure overseas nurses that they will be welcome in the UK once it has left the European Union.

The calls have been made by the House of Commons Health Select Committee in a report of its inquiry into the nursing workforce. The committee has found that:

  • in too many areas and specialties, the nursing workforce is overstretched and struggling to cope with demand
  • too little attention has been given to retaining the existing nursing workforce
  • the shortfall in the nursing workforce is being caused by workload pressures, poor access to continuing professional development, a sense of not feeling valued, ongoing pay restraint, the impact of Brexit and the introduction of the changes in language testing.

To tackle these issues, the committee is calling for:

  • Health Education England to reverse cuts to nurses’ continuing professional development budgets
  • specific funding to be made available to support continuing professional development for nurses working in the community
  • further assurances be given to nurses who originate from other EU nations that they will be able to remain in the UK with their families after Brexit
  • the Home Office to extend the period that nurses are on the shortage occupation list
  • action to ensure that reliable data is available from across all sectors to inform workforce planning - and make sure that future projections of demand for nurses should be based on demographics and other demand factors, rather than on affordability.

Together for Short Lives believes that the committee’s findings reflect the workforce challenges faced by children’s palliative care services across the NHS, children’s hospices and the voluntary sector.

A diverse range of nurses provide care for babies, children and young people with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions, including school nurses, health visitors, community children’s nurses, intensive care staff, accident and emergency nurses, specialists and generalists.

We are concerned that there has never been a workforce plan developed to ensure the numbers of nurses with the right skills are available to provide children’s palliative care. The nurse vacancy rate among children’s hospice organisations is equal to that in the NHS - and is growing. Our latest survey of children's hospices found that the average nurse vacancy rate was 11% in mid-December 2016 (an increase of 1% on the rate in 2015). It is the same as the overall NHS nurse vacancy rate in England. It is getting harder to recruit nurses to posts with increasing shortages of more experienced nurses. The nursing shortfall also means that children’s hospices are being increasingly forced to cut back the vital palliative care they can offer to families.

We believe that a proper strategy is needed to provide the skills, he numbers and the range of specialists for now and in the future, wherever the child is, hospital, hospice or home. Approaches to continuing professional development must extend to nurses working in the independent and voluntary sector.

Shaun Walsh, Executive Director of External Affairs at Together for Short Lives, said:

“We welcome the committee’s findings and recommendations and call on the government, Health Education England and universities to urgently work with us to find a way of boosting the supply of nurses to children’s palliative care services now, so they don’t reach crisis point.”

“We ask Health Education England to assess the demand for nurses from all children’s palliative care services, including children’s hospices; we would like planners to include this demand in their planning models and commission sufficient education places to help meet the shortfall in nurses who are able to provide children’s palliative care. I also ask the Council of Deans of Health and undergraduate children’s nursing course leads to work with us to make sure that education programmes for children’s nurses equip them to care for children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions.”

You can read Together for Short Lives’ written evidence to the committee here.

Find out about our You Can Be That Nurse campaign, which includes a film which encourages nurses to consider a career in children’s palliative care.

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