Nursing shortages has its impact in every area of children's services

More must be done to improve recruitment and retention from neonatal care to school nursing

Nurse with babies in incubators
Picture: Getty

Neonatal nursing careers may be in need of a revamp. There are historic difficulties in recruitment and retention, and the rate of turnover is high.

Being a neonatal nurse is a true labour of love. As outcomes for premature babies improve, the working environment becomes more pressurised and demanding.

In terms of career development, it can be difficult for neonatal nurses to move beyond band 5, which can discourage anyone who wants to remain in the specialty.

Nursing Children and Young People's consultant editor Doreen Crawford argues that more needs to be done to make neonatal nursing an attractive career option.

Safe staffing guidance for children’s care

Neonatal nursing is not the only area of the profession affected by shortages as staffing is the key issue for the NHS.

Wales has become the first UK country to issue safe staffing guidance for services for children and young people’s inpatient care.

Interim guidance states that the ratio of nurses to children and young people on wards should not fall below one to four.

The move is intended to help health boards prepare for an extension to the existing legislation on safe staffing.

Wales was the first UK country to enact a nurse safe staffing law, with Scotland passing legislation in May this year.

Concerns about the safety of nursing services

So progress is being made slowly, but acute care is not the only area where the safety of services can be affected by inadequate staffing.

There are shortages of school nurses, for example, which prompts fears that children going back to school will be inadequately covered.

The RCN says the number of school nurses has fallen by 30% since 2010.

The number of health visitors has also fallen drastically, with professionals, such as those in Lincolnshire, considering strike action.

Each specialty has distinct issues, but the common denominator is a lack of nurses.