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Nursing workforce standards set out basis for safe and effective patient care

RCN issues collective UK standards for employers and health regulators to support nurses

RCN issues collective UK standards for employers, health regulators and organisations to support the nursing workforce

A new set of workforce standards for all nurse employers has been launched by the RCN .

The Nursing Workforce Standards are the first time the college has set out detailed expectations for employers, regulators and organisations to support nurses work and patient safety.

No catch-all system to record nurse numbers and vacancy rates

The

RCN issues collective UK standards for employers, health regulators and organisations to support the nursing workforce

RCN's Nursing Workforce Standards

A new set of workforce standards for all nurse employers has been launched by the RCN.

The Nursing Workforce Standards are the first time the college has set out detailed expectations for employers, regulators and organisations to support nurses’ work and patient safety.

No catch-all system to record nurse numbers and vacancy rates

The 14 standards include not counting support staff as nurses; a contingency plan for when the nursing workforce is compromised; and workforce plans to be made by an executive nurse.

They were released alongside the results of an online survey commissioned by the RCN, which ran between 23 and 25 April. The poll attracted 1,752 responses from members of the public, with 70% (1,226) agreeing that there are too few nurses to provide safe care.

At present there is no catch-all system to record nurse numbers and vacancy rates, making it difficult to obtain a true picture of nursing shortages. However, the RCN estimates there are 50,000 nursing vacancies across the UK.

Five key elements of the RCN’s new workforce standards

  1. Nurses working in one area should not be ‘double counted’. For example, an advanced nurse practitioner rostered on the acute medical rota should not be counted as part of the nursing workforce for that acute medical unit
  2. Clerical, housekeeping and catering staff should not be considered in nursing workforce numbers when determining clinical needs
  3. A contingency plan should be made – and tested annually – for when the nursing workforce is compromised, understaffed or redeployed
  4. When the substantive (not agency or bank staff) workforce falls below 80%, this should be reported to the employer board/senior management
  5. Nursing workforce plans should be designed by an executive nurse or equivalent

Nursing staff shortages compromise patient safety

RCN acting general secretary Pat Cullen said nursing vacancies demonstrate the need for the new standards: ‘The shortage of nursing staff across all specialisms in the profession, in the NHS and independent sector, compromises patient safety.'

She added: ‘We are acting to address this by setting out these standards that must underpin workforce planning and be consistently applied across the UK.’

Find out more

RCN (2021) Nursing Workforce Standards


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