Shropshire Star: Plugging gaps just makes do

The nursing cavalry is galloping over the horizon.

They are just what we need, and we are eternally grateful to them. But at the same time, there is an issue to be addressed of why our hospitals need to be rescued in the first place.

Bosses at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, which runs the Princess Royal and Royal Shrewsbury hospitals, say there are about 300 nursing vacancies. Currently, about 100 candidates from overseas are being interviewed to fill some of the gaps.

Long may the NHS continue to attract medical and nursing talent from across the world. Patients have much to thank them for and so does Britain generally. The concerns are of organisation, sustainability, recruitment, and career development, and in particular an exodus from the nursing profession which is leading to the vacancies and the staff shortages.

For the trust to be unable to retain its staff points to there being underlying problems, and is an inefficient model because the skills of experienced staff who head for the exit are lost and replacing them like-for-like is a challenge. Training new recruits to the same standard also takes ages.

Spending time attracting and then employing new recruits brings with it costs which could be avoided if there was more stability in the workforce.

And what is wrong with the domestic training and recruitment programme which is failing to bring enough nurses to staff our hospitals?

If this were the Army, the haemorrhaging would be seen as a sign of poor morale among the troops. Which brings us to the nub of the issue – why are nurses moving on in the first place, creating such a high turnover?

A number of factors have been cited. Some are the sort of things you might expect, like seizing new career opportunities, but some of them relate to job satisfaction and morale.

Patients at our hospitals will get an impression of how hard our nurses are working, but it will of course be the nurses and medical staff themselves who know the full story.

Plugging the gaps keeps the ship afloat. But it’s a ‘making do’ solution. What lies behind it is there’s something wrong with the good ship NHS.

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