News

Brexit could take nursing workforce to ‘breaking point’

Brexit could take the nursing workforce to ‘breaking point’, a leading nurse academic has warned.
brexit

Brexit could take the nursing workforce to breaking point, a leading nurse academic has warned

Kings College London professor of nursing policy Anne-Marie Rafferty made the comments at the RCN International Centenary Conference on Wednesday.

During a session on safe staffing in a post-Brexit era, Professor Rafferty outlined recommendations she would like policymakers to adopt in the interests of patient safety.

Brexit could take us to breaking point within the workforce and exacerbate some of its ills, she said.

Job security

Professor Rafferty acknowledged Brexit was a very sensitive, controversial and compelling topic, but pointed to the role European Union nurses play in staffing UK hospitals.

These people are providing a highly valued

Brexit could take the nursing workforce to ‘breaking point’, a leading nurse academic has warned


‘Brexit could take us to breaking point within the workforce and exacerbate some
of its ills,’ KCL professor of nursing policy Anne-Marie Rafferty says. Picture: iStock

King’s College London professor of nursing policy Anne-Marie Rafferty made the comments at the RCN International Centenary Conference on Wednesday.

During a session on safe staffing in a post-Brexit era, Professor Rafferty outlined recommendations she would like policymakers to adopt in the interests of patient safety.

‘Brexit could take us to breaking point within the workforce and exacerbate some of its ills,’ she said.

Job security 

Professor Rafferty acknowledged Brexit was a ‘very sensitive, controversial and compelling topic’, but pointed to the role European Union nurses play in staffing UK hospitals.

‘These people are providing a highly valued service,’ she said, adding that issues of transparency, staffing, investment in education and workforce were now key.

During a Commons’ debate in July, health select committee chair Sarah Wollaston said the EU workforce in the NHS – which includes 33,000 nurses – deserved job security.

However, there have been no formal guarantees over the status of nurses and other workers after Britain formally leaves the EU.

Poor comparison 

Addressing her peers on the uncertainty ahead, professor Rafferty recommended managers and policymakers should:

  • Place high priority on improving hospital work environments, which could result in better patient outcomes and improved nurse retention.
  • Strengthen public confidence by focusing on greater transparency surrounding measuring nurse staffing inputs.
  • Standardise nurses’ qualifications at bachelor’s level in the interest of better patient outcomes.
  • Implement evidence-based decision making on patient-to-nurse work loads and nursing skill mix.

Professor Rafferty pointed to past research findings, which showed that, in terms of nursing skill mix, staffing levels and resources, England already fared poorly in comparison to other European countries. 

The work of the RN4CAST consortium, which looked at nurse staffing across 12 European countries, also found England ranked poorly in nurse education.

Unhealthy symptoms 

The country was in the lowest quartile for the number of nurses with bachelor’s degrees (28%).

Professor Rafferty said RN4CAST evidence, published in the Lancet in 2014, showed deaths were significantly lower in hospitals with more bachelor degree-educated nurses and fewer patients per nurse.

‘This is not a healthy set of symptoms in our workforce, from our data,’ she said.

Professor Rafferty also highlighted data showing that among the regions with a higher percentage of the ‘leave’ vote, there were also higher reported nursing shortages – London being the exception.

One nurse who works in a London intensive care unit said 80% of their nursing colleagues were Portuguese, and raised concerns about what the future may hold for EU workers.

Sign up to continue reading for FREE

OR

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursing standard.com and the Nursing Standard app
  • Monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs