“We warmly welcome Jane Cummings into her new role as the Chief Nursing Officer on the NHS Commissioning Board. We have enjoyed an excellent relationship with Jane in her previous role as Chief Nurse for the North of England and look forward to building on this. We welcome the fact that Jane will be looking at improvements in patient safety and patient experience as these are also key issues for our members especially at a time when the NHS has to make savings of £20bn in England alone.
“The NHS is currently going through a period of unprecedented change, so it is vital that it has strong leadership in place to steer it through these challenges. The RCN has continually highlighted the importance of the nursing voice and nurse leadership at the top of the new NHS system and we are confident that Jane will fulfil this brief.”
Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is the voice of nursing across the UK and is the largest professional union of nursing staff in the world. The RCN promotes the interest of nurses and patients on a wide range of issues and helps shape healthcare policy by working closely with the UK Government and other national and international institutions, trade unions, professional bodies and voluntary organisations.
Care homes lack resources to provide quality care
A new RCN report published last week outlines how nurses working in care homes are facing huge challenges in providing care for people, many of whom may have been previously treated in acute hospitals. One year on from a similar survey, the study of almost 600 nurses in England found that more than a quarter of nurses (26 per cent) stated they did not have adequate equipment and medical supplies and almost four in ten (38 per cent) of respondents reported a lack of staff to meet residents’ needs.
The survey also identified a lack of training for staff, inappropriate admissions and extreme pressure on the workforce leading to poor staff morale. In response, the RCN today sets out a nine point plan for the Government to act on.
Care homes are increasingly struggling to provide high quality care for residents with complex medical conditions, amid a backdrop of a severe lack of funding, equipment and staff, the Royal College of Nursing warned.
The RCN’s report, Persistent challenges to providing quality care, also highlights the key issue of funding and admissions. It warns that people are being admitted with more severe and complex care needs, but with inadequate funding allocated to meet these needs as both social care and Continuing Health Care (CHC) eligibility criteria are being tightened.
The report also found that almost half of nurses (48 per cent) said care homes are accepting residents in a bid to fill vacant places, despite the fact that they might not be able to meet their needs. In addition, some homes have an increasing preference for self funding residents which would have implications for equal access to care. One manager in a care home said: “There are pressures from councils and CQC to provide a ‘Harrods-quality service for Woolworths prices.’”
RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary, Dr Peter Carter, said:
“This report paints a hugely concerning picture about the many daily challenges that so many nurses in care homes face in delivering high quality care. Many of these challenges are not new, but following years of underinvestment these issues have now significantly worsened. When nearly two in five nurses say there are not enough nurses to meet the needs of residents, then you know that this is a worrying state of affairs. Even nurses, who were positive about the quality of care, felt it was delivered despite significant challenges.”
Other key findings from the survey include: • Almost two fifths of nurses (38 per cent) believed that there are not enough full time registered nurses employed to meet residents’ needs – up from just 29 percent in 2010. • More than a quarter of nurses (26 per cent) said they did not have adequate equipment and medical supplies needed for residents – up six percent from 2010. • Many carers are often paid the minimum wage, currently just £6.08 for workers aged 21 and over, with higher wages on offer at the local supermarket. This leads to issues of retention of staff. One staff nurse said: “Until carers are paid a decent wage we will be in this awful situation where it is so hard to retain good staff,” while a senior nurse added: “Too few staff, low staff morale, long shifts. Feel like a general dogs body, not a nurse a lot of the time. I work myself to the point of exhaustion and often come home in tears but at least I have job security.”
The RCN’s recommendations include: • Re-evaluation of how funding is allocated to cover the needs of residents in care homes; • National guidance on staffing levels and ratios for care home; • A Government review of care home workforce planning and to ensure that this workforce is appropriately supported, trained, qualified and valued; and • Regulation of all healthcare assistants.
Dr Carter added:
“Getting health and social care funding right is crucial not only for the sustainability of the social care system, but the NHS too. On a daily basis nurses have to deal with the burden of repeated form filling and eligibility assessments. It is nursing staff and the NHS that have to deal with the pressures of delayed transfers, referrals and confusion over who pays for what.”