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Readers’ panel: Is it time to resist the idea that support staff are part of the solution to nursing shortage?

Nursing Standard readers have their say on the impact of diluting the skill mix

A study says lower levels of registered nurses and above average use of nursing assistants are associated with an increased risk of death during hospital admission. Nursing Standard readers have their say

Picture: John Houlihan

Grant Byrne is a nursing student in Edinburgh

Nursing support staff do a fantastic job, but the clue is in the title – they are there to support our work, not replace us. There is simply no substitute for a registered nurse, with research showing time and again that diluting the skill mix is harmful to patient outcomes. It is time our profession fought back. Politicians must realise that nursing is about more than the tasks we undertake, and that quality nursing cannot be delivered on the cheap. Given what they pay us, I would say we’re already a bargain.

Liz Charalambous is a staff nurse and PhD student in Nottingham

It is clear that registered nurses are vital to patient outcomes. Support staff are valuable, but as it becomes increasingly difficult to staff clinical areas, I am concerned they may be seen as a quick fix. Unless we see a radical change in the present system, including making nurse education a more attractive and financially viable option for those wishing to undertake it, there will be no positive change. Support staff are only part of the solution. It is unfair and immoral to expect them to solve a problem this government created. 

Daniel Athey is a charge nurse on an acute medical unit in Sheffield 

Working in an area with a shortage of registered nurses, I am acutely aware of the challenges faced in nurse recruitment. Support staff alone cannot fill the gaps left by registered nurses, and people are kidding themselves if they think they can. But in the current climate, with the scrapping of the bursary, the uncertainty around Brexit and the retirement time bomb, we need to look at alternative ways to fill these gaps. Until we have a sea change in nurse recruitment things are only going to get worse.

Beverley Ramdeen is a senior nursing lecturer in Hertfordshire 

Given the current shortage of registered nurses, it is easy to think nursing associates may be the answer. But no matter how valuable the role may be, nursing associates are not the solution to the nursing shortage. A better solution would be more investment in training, both before and after registration, and a review of the nursing team so that the skills of support staff and registered nurses are used to ensure the best possible patient care and outcomes.

Readers’ panel members give their views in a personal capacity only

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