Opinion

We can all learn to make safer staffing a reality

Senior nurse Sinead O’Neill on why the chief nursing officer for England’s safer staffing programme is one of the best opportunities she’s ever had

Senior nurse Sinead O’Neill on why the chief nursing officer for England’s safer staffing fellowship programme is one of the best opportunities she’s ever had

safe staffing
Picture: iStock

The chance to be in the first cohort of the chief nursing officer (CNO) for England’s safer staffing fellowship programme came at the right time for me.

I am a senior nurse, workforce, regulations and revalidation, at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London. This role is more exciting and rewarding than I could ever have imagined. 

Less than a year in, I joined the safer staffing fellowship, which has allowed me to expand my knowledge and, in turn, share this expertise more widely with our nursing and midwifery workforce.

Joining the fellowship has been especially important at this challenging time in the NHS, when there are shortages of nurses in general, but particularly in certain specialties, as well as increasing financial and operational constraints.

Before taking up this senior nurse role, I had worked in sexual and reproductive healthcare, but I had a passion for people development and patient safety.

Vital to providing good care

Ensuring adequate and safe staffing in our clinical areas is a priority for our director of nursing and the rest of our board.

Fundamentally, safe staffing — having the right number of staff with the right skills on our wards — is vital to providing good care, and workforce leads in all organisations have an important contribution to make in this area.

To date, we have had two classroom-based study days, which have been amazing, with access to leading professionals on safe staffing, the Safer Nursing Care Tool and Birthrate Plus, as well as academics researching in this field. These study days have helped us understand the background, historical approaches and events that have shaped the NHS safe-staffing agenda.

Our faculty group is a mixture of leading nurses and midwives from acute hospitals and mental healthcare settings across England so, to continue the discussions we have begun in our training, we have set up social media and email groups. This open approach to communication means that, if one of us is struggling with an aspect of safe staffing, wherever we work, we can easily chat to other members of the group.

Tackling complex issues

It is rewarding to know that you’re not alone tackling complex issues around safe staffing and benefiting from the wealth of experience and knowledge in the group has been phenomenal. Already, we have shared examples of working, innovation, guidance and policy documents. 

This programme naturally encourages us to go back and implement and share what we’ve learned. For example, a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis on recently published guidance by NHS Improvement, Developing Workforce Safeguards has directly benefited the gap analysis and action plan I was working on at my trust. 

The CNO safer staffing fellowship programme is one of the best professional opportunities I have had.  It’s about learning from experts and staff at other care providers and sharing with my colleagues the best approaches to safe staffing wherever we might work.

Find out more about the chief nursing officer for England’s safer staffing fellowship programme and other safer staffing resources here 

Find out more

NHS Improvement (2018) Developing Workforce Safeguards

NHS Improvement (2019) Safer Staffing


Sinead O’Neill is senior nurse, workforce, regulations and revalidation, at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, and an NHS safe staffing champion

 

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