I recently met with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) to discuss the NHS staff shortage crisis. I was eager to learn directly from NHS staff about the issues affecting them.
Years of pay freezes, removal of the nurse bursary and the Government’s failure to invest in and plan appropriately for the workforce has resulted in more than 100,000 vacancies across the NHS. This has put patient safety at risk and resulted in poorer standards of care.
According to a survey of its members conducted by the RCN in 2017, 53% of respondents reported that care was compromised on their last shift, whilst the same figure reported that they felt upset that they could not provide the level of care. It is shocking to see that NHS staff feel this way.
Not only is staff retention an issue, but the number of nurses engaging in training has also had an impact on NHS staffing levels. The bursary was scrapped for undergraduates in 2017, which consisted of a non-means tested grant of £1,000 per year and a means-tested bursary to help with living costs (up to £3,191). I believe the scrapping of the nurse bursary has had a devastating impact on attracting new staff to the profession.
In Wales, the Nurse Staffing Levels Act received Royal Assent in March 2017. This placed conditions on health care providers to ensure that there was an appropriate staff to patient ratio. I will be calling on the Government to introduce similar legislation in England in the coming weeks and months.
Earlier in the year, I called on the Government to reinstate nurse bursaries. The Government responded and informed me that they will not make any plans to reinstate the bursaries. Instead, they explained that they aim to create 5,000 additional training places. However, the lack of bursary has made the profession less attractive and we have seen the crisis worsen.
I will continue to put pressure on this Government to provide the NHS with the funding and staff it needs for the future.