Boards eye view: 'part-trained staff' are not the answer to nursing shortages

Considering the potential dangers of cutting the budget for continuing professional development in nurses.

This has been a turbulent year for the NHS and the future is not looking bright.

University college hospital supports junior doctors
UCH staff showing support for junior doctors. Picture: Barney Newman

We have witnessed junior doctors closing ranks and striking for better working and pay conditions while highlighting patient safety is at risk.

Speak out

In the midst of the strike Health Education England (HEE) announced it was to cut the budget for continuing professional development (CPD) for nurses. Some Higher Education Institutions have received a 45%-51% decrease in CPD provision for the next academic year 2016/17 with proposed further cuts in 2017/18.

The Council of Deans of Health chair Dame Jessica Corner has urged nurses to speak out about the cuts. CPD provision supports the delivery of short courses, programmes and modules and enables nurses to keep up to date with clinical practice and drive service improvement along with enhancing patient care.

Bridging the gap

This coincided with the launch of the new Nursing Associate Programme which is due to be rolled out this month. This ‘utopic’ creation by HEE is set to bridge the gap between the registered nurse and the existing nursing care support worker.

The two-year programme has attracted a lot of interest from acute trusts who can boost the number of staff on the ward and bedside at a time when nurses are in short supply.

HEE’s director of nursing Lisa Bayliss-Pratt states ‘the new associate nurse role will provide real benefits to the nursing workforce across a range of settings and play a key role in the delivery of patient care with safety at its heart’.

However, research published in the BMJ Quality and Safety journal has linked the use of junior care roles to higher death rates.

Consider this with implementation of the physician assistant role and you cannot help but wonder if the NHS will soon be staffed by ‘part-trained’ workers.

The implications for emergency care provision could be devastating when potentially the most junior and least trained members of staff are treating the sickest and most vulnerable patients.

About the author

Mike Parker

Mike Parker is a lecturer in emergency, acute and critical care nursing at the University of York UK and a member of the Emergency Nurse editorial advisory board

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