News

Children's health is at stake over shortages of paediatric nurses and doctors, RCN warns

A lack of children’s nurses is contributing to the mounting staffing crisis facing paediatric units across the UK, the RCN has warned.
baby unit (Photo: iStockphoto)

Children's health is at stake over shortages of paediatric nurses and doctors, the RCN has warned.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) today raised concerns that the UK's paediatric workforce was at 'breaking point', after its new survey highlighted more than half of paediatric units were not meeting RCPCH-recommended staffing standards.

It revealed that consultants were increasingly providing unplanned cover in addition to performing their own roles to keep services running.

And 89% of clinical directors said they were concerned about how paediatric services would cope in the next six months, according to the survey of 93 paediatric and neonatal units.

'A worrying picture'

RCN professional lead for children and young people Fiona Smith said the survey painted a 'worrying picture'.

'At a time when childrens nursing numbers are plummeting, it is frightening to see similar shortages in medical

Children's health is at stake over shortages of paediatric nurses and doctors, the RCN has warned.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) today raised concerns that the UK's paediatric workforce was at 'breaking point', after its new survey highlighted more than half of paediatric units were not meeting RCPCH-recommended staffing standards.

It revealed that consultants were increasingly providing unplanned cover in addition to performing their own roles to keep services running.

And 89% of clinical directors said they were concerned about how paediatric services would cope in the next six months, according to the survey of 93 paediatric and neonatal units.

'A worrying picture'

RCN professional lead for children and young people Fiona Smith said the survey painted a 'worrying picture'.

'At a time when children’s nursing numbers are plummeting, it is frightening to see similar shortages in medical staff,' she said.

'Without the right staff and the right skills in the right place, children won’t get the care they need – it’s that simple.

'Insufficient planning'

'It is clear that workforce planning for children’s services has been highly insufficient. 

'It is crucial that these issues are addressed, as this is not only the health of our children at stake, it’s the health of the future adult population.'

The RCPCH's rota vacancies and compliance survey highlighted gaps across junior doctor rotas.

Three in five 'tier 1' rotas – which are made up of the most junior doctors – were not able to meet the RCPCH recommendation of 10 full-time staff.

And 77% of 'tier 2' rotas – made up of more senior trainees – were not meeting the RCPCH quota.

Rota gaps

As a result, many consultants were plugging rota gaps – with 38% of paediatric units claiming they have used consultants to fill junior doctor rota gaps in 2016 compared with 35% in 2015.

RCPCH workforce officer Simon Clark said: ‘The paediatric workforce is at breaking point and children’s healthcare is increasingly being compromised.

‘We call for managerial leadership to break down barriers to multi-disciplinary working, an increase in children’s nurses and immediate opportunities for our GP colleagues to access child health training.'

A Department of Health spokesperson said: 'We are helping the NHS cope with increased demand by recruiting more staff, with 9,100 extra doctors and 11,200 more nurses on our wards since May 2010.'

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