Female nurse in discussion with a colleague

RCN: A wake-up call to invest in the nursing workforce

Following the publication of the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) annual report, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has issued a plea for further investment into the nursing workforce, highlighting the strain which has been caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The report investigated the state of health and social care services in England over the past year and praised the efforts of nursing staff caring in the pandemic.

However, it also highlighted how Covid-19 has led to greater inequalities in patient care and demonstrated a clear and urgent need for reform, investment and workforce planning.

Particularly in social care, the pandemic has not only exposed pre-existing problems, but exacerbated many of them.

Already a fragile sector, it faced significant challenges around access to PPE, testing and staffing – while co-ordinated support was less readily available than for the NHS.

Similarly, it demonstrated the disparate impact Covid-19 was having on those already likely to have poorer health outcomes, including people from deprived areas and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

As such, the report stressed the importance of ensuring health and care services were more closely designed around people’s individual needs.

Responding to the report, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the RCN, Dame Donna Kinnair, said: “This report demonstrates the pressures nursing staff witness every day.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has magnified the inequalities faced by many in the health and care system. For many, such as those from BAME communities, access to services has only got worse.

“The lack of investment in areas such as social care has pushed services to the edge putting the care of patients at real risk.

“This should be a wake-up call which leads to a truly integrated health and care system that puts the long-term care of patients at its heart.

“There now needs to be proper investment in the entire workforce so patients can receive high quality care wherever and whenever they need it.

“We share the view that this needs to include training and progression that retains the skilled and experienced nursing workforce we already have, but also attracts new nurses to grow the workforce for the long-term.

“Now is the time for the government to act to protect patients, staff and the long-term ability of the health and care system to deliver the care patients need.”

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As was outlined by Sir Simon Stevens when the NHS announced their green plans back in 2020, 5,700 lives could be saved each year by improved air quality. Even more could see their overall health improve and be in a position to self-manage their conditions, rather than requiring NHS treatment. Covid-19 has already left the NHS with a sizeable treatment backlog, so anything which can be done to improve patient health and reduce demand is beneficial for all.

Working together, we can help the NHS realise its green ambitions as per the Net-Zero National Health Service report and its ambitious 2040 target. Join us on August 25, 2021 for our Net-Zero NHS event, where we will be joined by health sector leaders and innovators for a day of sharing best practice and networking.

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