Editorial

Our talent at the top is still going to waste

Waste in the health service is nothing new, with stories usually focusing on supplies and procurement. But as Nursing Standard reveals this week, there is a serious ongoing issue with the profession’s most senior staff. Too many of them are struggling in their roles and are either being removed from their posts or are walking away having had enough. The wasted talent is nothing short of a scandal.

Waste in the health service is nothing new, with stories usually focusing on supplies and procurement. But as Nursing Standard reveals this week, there is a serious ongoing issue with the profession’s most senior staff. Too many of them are struggling in their roles and are either being removed from their posts or are walking away having had enough. The wasted talent is nothing short of a scandal.

The headline figures from our annual survey are shocking, and not for the first time: almost two thirds of nurse directors have been in post for three years or less, and almost half are yet to reach their second anniversary in the job. The consequences for nursing teams and patient care are serious, given the lack of continuity and inconsistent leadership that inevitably results. It is no surprise that many nurses would struggle to name the chief nurse in their organisation.

Those in post need support and development to make a success of their roles

Some churn in the workforce is welcome, but such a high level of turnover is unsustainable. Yet this is the third year running that we have conducted this survey, and the third year running it has produced much the same results.

Action is needed and urgently. For starters, those already in post need more support and development to make a success of their roles. Those in senior positions, such as deputy and assistant nursing directors, must receive a thorough preparation so that they are ready for the step up. And further down the management chain, talent should be identified and the leaders of tomorrow given the advice and mentoring they need to maximise their chances of making it to the top.

Next summer we shall conduct this survey again. It is difficult to solve problems of this nature in 12 months, as the issues are deep-rooted, but by then we should be able to see signs of progress.

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