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Added funding is a start but we need to take better care of our staff

Recent headlines telling us that one in every 400 nursing posts are unfilled and 70% of nurses leave within 12 months have caught my eye of late.

The accompanying impact of use of agency staff to cover gaps to the tune of almost £1.5bn per year, paying 61% over the rate paid to in-house staff also makes for uncomfortable, if not shocking, reading.

Another recent headline announcing the so-called ‘golden hellos’ for newly recruited staff in high need areas and specialities has been greeted with a cautious welcome.

The issues regarding how we address workforce challenges for nursing are immense. I attended a really packed Devon nurse conference recently titled ‘Better Together’. I spoke with the impressive NHS England lead nurse for primary care, Karen Storey, after her presentation in which she shared her own nursing journey and offered positive and comforting words to the eager audience of mainly primary care and community nurses. My table had a real buzz about the belief and energy for their work and roles in these busy times.

Karen set out the 10 Point Plan for General Practice Nursing but did make the point that in her discussions with newly qualified nurses, many are of the view that GPN work – misguidedly, I should say – is seen as a destination point at the end of a nursing career, where the demographic is nurses late in their career. This, I suggest, is something we should challenge and address.

Many of the nurses attending were aware of the headlines as well as many were engaged in the 6Cs campaign and the ‘Leading Change, Adding Value’ vision for nursing. However, when Karen asked about how many knew about the STP (Sustainability and Transformation Partnership) for Devon, very few hands were raised.

In contemplating the question about a sustainable nursing workforce, I feel very torn. The cautious welcome about inducements and incentives to join and stay are necessary and important but we need to do more. We need to address how we can look after nurses better.

Karen Storey also encouraged our conference audience to join in more with the progress of the 10-point plan and take advantage of the £15m funding package in how it rolls out. £25,000 of the funding is earmarked for each of the four designated regional boards, which will be inviting submissions from local initiatives applying for support from the ‘innovation pot’.

I’ve got ideas and said to Karen to expect something from us, including a buddying plan with our care homes that I really hope can make an impact on local enhanced work with older people.

Perhaps a £10,000 golden hello isn’t on the cards for my work but a small pump-priming sum to strengthen the relationship with our local primary care and community nurses might be.