The NMC and the chief nurse of each UK nation have outlined the support available to nurses and midwives during the ‘toughest times’ the professions ‘have ever encountered’.
In a letter to directors of nursing, the signatories – Ruth May, England chief nursing officer (CNO); Alex McMahon, Scotland’s CNO; Linda Kelly, Northern Ireland’s CNO; Sue Tranka, Wales’ CNO; and Andrea Sutcliffe, NMC chief executive – said they were committed to ‘doing what we can’ to help.
This includes urging employers struggling for staff to use professionals on the NMC’s temporary Covid-19 register to expand the workforce. They recognised the ‘sustained additional pressures’ and staffing shortages because of sickness, Covid isolation or caring responsibilities.
The NMC also said it has contacted universities to register their final year students at the earliest opportunity to help with workforce planning from summer 2022.
In addition, the signatories reassured nurses and midwives who have to ‘depart from established procedures to care for people in these highly challenging but time-bound circumstances’ that the NMC ‘considers context’ in all of its fitness to practise decision-making.
‘In doing this, it considers the specific facts of each individual case, as provided by the professional as well as the referrer, including policies in place at the time,’ they wrote.
The letter also urged nurses and midwives to take care of themselves and seek support from their organisations if needed. It acknowledged the ‘real impact’ the ‘sustained effort’ since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic can have on health and wellbeing.
It concluded: ‘There’s no doubt that 2021 was one of the most difficult years that the nursing and midwifery professions have faced in modern times. And it’s clear the Omicron variant will pose yet more challenges over the coming weeks and months…
‘We recognise how difficult the situation is, and that you’re likely to have concerns about both the professional practicalities and implications of working in such circumstances. We are committed to doing what we can to ensure you feel supported, as you support those in your teams to deliver the best possible care through this challenging time.’
The letter also recommended the following wellbeing resources:
- NMC – The NMC website lists resources to support the mental wellbeing of those working in health or social care
- England – The NHS website in England also has a wide range of resources for staff
- Northern Ireland – The Public Health Agency website has resources for staff in Northern Ireland
- Scotland – Workforce Specialist Service
- Wales – The Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) website has wellbeing resources for NHS Wales staff, while Social Care Wales has developed resources for social care workers
The temporary register remains open to professionals who left the permanent register after 1 March 2015, or overseas nurses on the pathway to taking their objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) but have not yet joined the permanent register.
This comes as the NMC this week appointed Professor Jean White, former chief nursing officer for Wales, to oversee work on modernising education standards after Brexit.
The NMC is considering changing its education programme standards – on factors such as student selection, length of programme, and theory and practice learning hours – because it no longer needs to follow EU directive requirements since the UK left the EU in 2020.