COVID 19: Increasing pressures on nursing staff

Dame Donna Kinnair 15 Jan 2021 Chief Executive and General Secretary

Dame Donna Kinnair shares the latest on the COVID-19 vaccination programme, the impact of staffing shortages and how we’re supporting members through this unprecedented time.

Last night, I appeared on Question Time and spoke about the unprecedented pressures the NHS has experienced recently. But I was sure to make the point that we entered this pandemic with tens of thousands of staff vacancies, exacerbated now by many nursing staff unable to work, due to sickness or self-isolation. The demands on you, personally and professionally, are immense.

I also discussed the scale of the vaccine roll-out, with around 80,000 NHS staff now involved, alongside tens of thousands of volunteers. I insisted the government need to deliver on its vaccination promises, as you work around the clock to deliver it. 

One of the audience members last night was talking about the dilution of the ratio of specially trained intensive care nurses to patients.  

I want to be clear: this is not safe practice. It is exacerbated by the severe shortage of nursing staff, which is not only affecting ICU but many wards packed with seriously ill patients where nurse to patient ratios are very high.

The UK Critical Care Nursing Alliance (UKCCNA), of which the RCN is a member, is also requesting that departments of health in the four nations provide further guidance on how increased workforce requirements are managed.

These conditions are incredibly difficult, and the nursing staff I speak to everyday tell me that they have no fuel left in the tank and their resilience is being seriously tested. I discussed the impact of this on BBC Breakfast earlier this week. 

Please remember we have resources on our website to support you with your mental wellbeing – take a look when you can.

Finally, the news yesterday arrived that the NMC have once again updated their emergency standards so final year students in England can be invited to join the workforce locally.

While the standards are UK wide, only England has agreed to activate the option for offering final year student paid placements currently. It will also be done on a local basis, with individual higher education institutions and placement provider organisations able to utilise the standards to implement paid placements should they choose to.

Employers and educators must take full responsibility for the supervision, support and wellbeing of any final year students whether they choose to opt-in or not. Students must not be disadvantaged, either financially or in terms of their education, irrespective of their individual decision.
To support our student members, we have set out eight guiding principles and a series of FAQs and the RCN Students Committee continues to do a brilliant job of representing the student voice in meetings and on social media.

As you continue to work through this pandemic peak, the RCN will continue to provide you with the professional and workplace support you need. Find up to date COVID-19 resources and support on our website and details of how to contact us if needed.

Dame Donna Kinnair

Dame Donna Kinnair

Chief Executive & General Secretary

Prior to her appointment as Acting Chief Executive & General Secretary, Dame Donna was Director of Nursing, Policy and Practice and worked with UK-wide RCN staff to drive and implement RCN professional nursing, policy and practice strategy.

Before joining the RCN, Donna held various roles, including Clinical Director of Emergency Medicine at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust.
Donna advised the PM’s Commission on the future of Nursing and Midwifery in 2010 and served as nurse/child health assessor to the Victoria Climbié Inquiry.

Page last updated - 15/01/2021