I hope you are all well and, where possible, enjoying the summer weather and trying to get some time off. This unusually hot summer has put some additional stress on us in terms of demand for our services. Some parts of the Trust are also really challenging to keep cool; I’m really grateful for all you have done to look after each other and our patients.
I set out in my opening blog a set of priorities, one of which focused on a desire to ensure we were able to deal with the current and future gaps in the nursing workforce. That is not to say by any means that vacancies in other professions don’t cause us significant challenges, but the nursing workforce is by far the largest body of staff. Future projections for those entering nurse training nationally are worrying. We don’t have the number of nurses we would like at this moment, and with 1 in 9 posts vacant in England, this is unlikely to resolve quickly. So how do we adapt for a world where there aren’t enough nurses and we know that more qualified nurses = better patient outcomes?
My personal thoughts as to what we need to focus on:
- How is this organisation a great place to be a nurse? Yes, being competitive on pay within the bounds of agenda for change is important, but what can we offer that is different? Access to different specialty rotations, opportunities for personal development, pathways into specialist roles and working for a Trust that has been recognised nationally for some of the innovative work we do here – we do good things, but we need to do more. Most importantly, how do we make nursing more enjoyable here: developing professional autonomy and an environment where nursing can thrive?
- We will have to get better at managing the future supply of nursing: this will involve working with numerous educational providers and developing partnerships that bring nursing education directly into the county and our own organisation.
- New roles – we need to accept that with not enough nurses coming through the universities we will need to look at different training routes (driven via apprenticeships) and the vocational training of higher banded support staff.
- Some of the solutions will come through redesigning the team structures that serve wards, departments or localities. This means looking at all the clinical and non clinical professions that will be needed to work together to provide the most appropriate care. This includes therapists, technicians, clerks, pharmacists and psychologists, for example, who will all have roles to play. It is critical that these teams are designed at ward / theatre / locality level involving all members of the multi-disciplinary team around the needs of our patients. Some areas, such as the National Spinal Injuries Centre, are already forging ahead with some innovative new models.
It’s a daunting problem but one which everyone is facing; and one for which I know we have the skills and experience to tackle together. Carolyn is leading this programme and will require all of your support: if you want to help and advise us on this journey please do get in touch, we want to hear from as many people as possible.
Once again, thank you for all that you do. Please do contact me if you want to discuss anything further; thanks to all of you that have already done so.