Ahead of a debate on the nursing workforce shortage in Parliament on Tuesday (3 March), the RCN has written to the region’s 59 MPs, calling on them to hold the Government to its General Election promise to establish 50,000 more nurses by 2025.
Figures published this week reveal the number of NHS vacancies for registered nurses in the Midlands was 7,810 at the end of December 2019, a rise of 3.5% compared to the same point in 2018 when there were 7,549 empty posts.
The number of unfilled jobs for nurses in the NHS across the region represents 11.5% of the workforce – around one post in every nine.
The RCN says the nurse shortage is putting the quality and safety of patient care at risk and leaving many nursing staff with unsustainably high workloads.
The College wants to see a law introduced that makes clear who is responsible in health and care systems nationally and locally for ensuring the supply and deployment of nurses in sufficient numbers.
We’re also calling for the Government, in its forthcoming Budget, to extend its commitment to introduce a maintenance grant for nursing students from September by also providing financial support towards students’ tuition fees.
The Government abolished the NHS bursary for nursing students and stopped funding tuition fees in 2017 despite warnings by the RCN that this would make training to be a nurse unaffordable for some people and worsen the workforce shortage.
Prof Rod Thomson, a nurse who represents the West Midlands on the RCN’s governing Council, has written to the MPs highlighting recently-published NHS Staff Survey results showing that in most NHS trusts in the region fewer than a third of registered nurses and midwives believe there are enough staff for them to be able to do their job properly.
Prof Thomson said: “Nurses and patients want to see urgent and meaningful measures to increase the size of the nursing workforce, something that both the Conservative and Labour parties committed to do during their election campaigns.
“Waiting times for being treated in A&E, having life-changing surgery, getting a GP appointment and accessing mental health support are all continuing to rise because capacity within the health service has fallen way below the level of demand being placed on it.
“Nurses are the most trusted professional group in the country, with 96% of the public placing them at the top of a list of occupations that also includes doctors, teachers and the police.
“The workload pressure they face has become intolerable and we need the support of our elected representatives to change things for the better, both for nursing staff and patients’ experiences and outcomes.”