In a response to the draft NHS workforce strategy, The Queen’s Nursing Institute says there needs to specific action to address ‘current and worsening’ staff shortages in primary and community nursing.
Specifically, the QNI says there needs to be investment in primary care services, and particularly in general practice nursing.
The QNI welcomed the draft but said: ‘We are concerned that the document fails to meet its stated objective to give an “all round perspective of NHS workforce strategy” as it does not adequately address the current and projected future shortfalls specifically in community and primary care nursing services.’
The QNI said: ‘The primary care workforce needs to have sufficient capacity to promote proactive working, support people with self-care and promote independence to keep people of all ages safe and well in their own communities.
‘More needs to be done to examine why people leave the profession, and understand issues impacting on organisations that have a high vacancy rate.’
The QNI is also demanding that Health Education England continues to invest in nurse education and that this should be funded appropriately. ‘The 23% reduction in UCAS student nurse applications this year, due to the removal of NHS funded [bursaries] and a move towards a student loan system is alarming. Community and primary care will be disproportionately affected by the reduction of mature students applying for nurse training, because these nurse-led services have historically recruited a greater proportion of mature students at the point of registration.’
And the QNI says there must be funding for CPD, which is essential and a requirement for revalidation, with courses that are validated against agreed standards.
The QNI response adds: ‘The NHS Five Year Forward View has at its heart the ambition to move more care closer to the community, but we do not believe this ambition is adequately reflected in the Draft.
‘We believe that any workforce plan should clearly acknowledge:
- Current and worsening shortages in community nursing, with specific actions to address these
- The effect of changing skill mix in community teams, and the balance of registered and unregistered staff
- The need for service integration around patient need
- The need for investment in primary care services, particularly GPNs
- An assessment of CPD funding needs for post registration nurses
- The need for community nurse leadership.’
Figures published by UCAS have shown that the number of applicants for nursing courses in Scotland has remained consistent over recent years despite significant drops in the numbers applying for courses in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. The latest UCAS data show a drop of 10% by the March 2018 deadline compared with the previous year. Most of the reduction occurred in England, with the highest percentage in the 20-29 year age group. Since 2015, the number of applicatnts has fallen from 60,360 to 43,700 (March deadline analysis, UCAS 2018).
Commenting on the report, Ellen Hudson, RCN Scotland Associate Director said: ‘It’s good to see the level of interest in nursing courses in Scotland has been maintained. The Scottish Government’s commitment to the bursary has contributed to ensuring that nursing is still an attractive choice for students in Scotland but this is not enough. We know we need to train more nurses and we know that, despite the bursary, financial pressures still play a significant part in the ability of students to apply for and complete their nursing studies. Following on from the independent student support review and the Chief Nursing Officer’s commission for widening access, we will be working with the Scottish Government to look at the options available and pressing them to improve the financial support for Scotland’s nursing students.’