Unison members call for better workforce planning

Conference hears inadequate staffing levels mean nurses are not always able to deliver appropriate care

Unison members have called on the government to develop a sustainable workforce plan in response to growing concerns about safe nurse staffing.

Una Provan. Picture credit: Barney Newman

During a debate at the union’s health conference in Brighton yesterday, Glasgow and Clyde region member Una Provan highlighted Unison's new safe nurse staffing survey, in which 86% of nurses reported that some elements of care were not carried out on their last shift.

‘It means our members, who are highly skilled professionals, are not able to provide the level of care our patients deserve,’ Ms Provan said, adding that safe staffing is an issue that comes up time and again in her region.

Ms Provan said NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board has more than 600 nursing vacancies and nurses regularly have to work more than 60 hours a week, which affects patient care.

She added: ‘From Brighton to Glasgow and the Shetlands, we need written into legislation safe staffing levels, whether in the community or hospitals.’

Unison members voted in favour of tackling workforce challenges on several fronts – such as the threat of losing many staff to retirement over the next five years, and paying students a salary while they undertake their training.

West Midlands member Gary Freeman criticised the government’s plan to axe the nursing bursary and replace it with student loans.

He said nursing students will end up with debts of between £47,000 and £59,000 at the end of their training, adding: ‘The government wants to take £1.2 billion out of public spending for Health Education England and put it onto the backs of students.’

The successful motion also called for new nursing roles to meet the demands of an ageing population, and for the use of overseas nurses to be maintained on a planned basis.

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