Helen Whyley, Interim Director, Royal College of Nursing Wales, said: “The research shows that delivery of high quality patient care depends on the skills and experience of registered nurses. Wales’s ageing population and chronic disease rate makes it more dependent upon healthcare. What is evident from this report is that the demand for registered nurses has not diminished and the reliance agency staff has increased.
Agency nurses make a valuable contribution to the workforce but an overreliance on them can affect the continuity of patient care. For example, agency nurses are unlikely to be familiar with the hospital/ community setting, therefore productivity and patient outcomes will be reduced considerably when compared to a permanent, contracted employee.
Given the increasing trend to use agency nurses, the RCN was disappointed that student nurse education commissioning places for 2019/20 were not increased. This creates a standstill for growing our nursing workforce when it is required to meet the aims of the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016, as well as reducing agency usage.
Retention of staff is just as important as recruitment. More has to be done to retain the nurses who work in the NHS. We know that nurses leave the NHS and turn to agency work because it offers better working terms and more flexible working conditions. Employee- friendly policies will encourage more nurses to stay in the NHS.
Furthermore, a lack of research to the effects of Brexit on agency nursing puts Wales in a vulnerable position. Wales must be able to continue to attract high calibre professionals, students and trainees, whether in the NHS, social care or independent sector, in order to be able to maintain a stable workforce that can deliver high quality services.
Moving forward we welcome an opportunity to work in partnership with the Welsh Government on this important issue.”