Government has ‘missed an opportunity’

UNISON NI believes that the British government has missed an opportunity to boost patient care by failing to recommend minimum staffing levels in its response to the Mid Staffs report.

The union has been campaigning for many years on the importance of having the right number of staff with the right mix of skills on hospital wards, and the Mid Staffs report highlighted the importance of this in delivering high quality, compassionate and dignified patient care.

A recent survey by UNISON NI’s nurses forum – Stretched on the Front-line, Who Really Cares? – found that 59% of respondents considered staffing levels to be ‘poor’. Only 9% of those surveyed stated that staffing levels were ‘good’.

The proposal to introduce a period of 12 months care training for student nurses are not, as yet, set to be introduced in Northern Ireland. However, UNISON NI has warned the Department of Health here against massive NHS reforms.

The union is also warning that there is no evidence that making student nurses work as healthcare assistants will boost standards. Student nurse already spend 50% of their training working on wards and in clinical settings. The union believes that this should be in longer, but fewer placements to give a broader picture of what life is really like on the wards.

Anne Speed, UNISON NI’s Head of Bargaining and Representation, said:

“There is always merit in expanding the experience of nurses but this is a step too far”.

“This proposal sounds like another plan to advance the deconstruction of NHS”.

“Comments such as ‘too posh to wash’ are also downright insulting to the nursing profession”.

“As our survey shows, nurses are bogged down with pressures due to understaffing”.

“As a result, any indication of introducing this proposal into Northern Ireland by Minister Poots will prompt a very rigorous input from UNISON.”