Staff Shortages hit hospitals across UK

Outdoor Portrait Of Female NurseWe all know the NHS is suffering a massive shortage of staff. If something isn’t sorted out soon, we will end up with your family having to provide your nursing care, and come in to hospital to look after you.

HCA (Health Care Assistants) are now replacing trained nurses in some hospitals, as a means of saving money. HCAs are very junior nurses, at the start of their training, and can’t be expected to have the knowledge and experience of a fully-trained nurse,  Since the NHS changed uniforms it is difficult to spot who is trained, and who isn’t.  It wasn’t until I was being man-handled in bed after six fractures, and found out that I had HCAs  looking after me,who told me  ‘we haven’t done our training in how to handle fracture patients yet’ – that dire reality hit. There was I, a patient, explaining from my position flat on my back, just how they should turn me over, how to use a sheet to slide me up the bed – and even how to arrange the pillows so I was comfortable.  Alll things a trained nurse should know.

At a recent NHS meeting, to talk about Whole Systems, recruitment came up.  As a lay person, representing patients , it was obvious that the chosen interview panel hadn’t a clue how to conduct an interview, or even what preparation THEY should do before the event.  So perhaps it isn’t surpising that the NHS is short of nurses.  It seemed that one excellent candidate had been seen, and “we learnt a lot about what we need to do before the next round of interviews”;  but that intelligent person is back applying for jobs again – no-one thought of asking  her to define what she thought was the role, and how she could work with the Centre and perhaps become the Lead.  So more time and money is being wasted – no wonder so many staff quit in disgust. Or never get past interview stage.

Eventually the Management Consultants, an off-shoot of an American company running the committee,  flew over our local CCG to the States, and decided to offer 200 jobs for these new centres – at £50,000 p.a. salary – but seemed reluctant to offer the jobs to UK personnel. They said “We aim to recruit a large number of Physician Associates (Physician Assistants) from the USA and place them in four regions in England for a period of two years”.

No-one had thought of addressing the practicalities of this particular job, overseeing care for elderly Britons. And the fact that Britain’s OAPs might  want someone who understands their language to look after them.  Would Americans understand what was meant  by ‘waterworks’ ? I am sure you can think of many similar expressions. And in London, if the patient needs further treatment, how long will it take a stranger to understand the complexities of London Transport, and how to access different hospitals, depending on where you live.

Eventually the whole process produced six Americans willing to come over, instead of the required 200 – and at what cost?

System is failing all

Yet nurse recruiting leaves something to be desired.

A neighbour wanted to return to nursing after bringing up her children  Asked me to write a reference, which I was happy to do as she is an efficient and caring person – just what the NHS needs. She applied to the local cancer hospital;  they interviewed her, and told her they had 2,000 applicants.  So she applied to a vast general hospital. Arriving for interview there, she found this was being held 15 minutes walk away from reception, and an unofficial tube strike had delayed her.  When she arrived at interview she was ticked off for being late.  Why didn’t they send a map?

In the meanrime the cancer hospital called her back.  Somehow none of the 2,000 applicants are suitable!  So the process starts all over again.  What a waste of time and money. If the NHS can’t get the system right in the first place, someone’s head should roll.


Did you ever wonder what happened to different uniforms, which made it easy to identify a Sister from a Nurse,? It is now difficult to work out which is the HCA from a ‘proper’ Nurse – surely that wasn’t the idea? But one can’t help wondering.


The NHS relies heavily on nurses recruited from abroad, e.g Europe, Asia, etc.  With Brexit looming, how long is it going to take for NHS England’s HR Dept. to realise it might be a good idea to reassure these workers that their jobs will be secure?  Otherwise the NHS will only have itself to blame if they head off to more welcoming countries, and we lose some higly trained personnel.


Once, Sister checked you every day;  today, she is probably covering two or more Wards ‘because of staff shortages’  i.e. cut backs.  I did ask to see thse Sister on my ward last time I was in hospital, as I wanted to hand over a cheque for the staff fund – but she never turned up.  Probably far too busy running between wards – but I did wonder if his or her lack was another cut-back.

Stop Press

Latest wheeze thought up by the brilliant minds that run the NHS is to introduce Nursing Associates.  How these fit in with HCAs no-one has said, but they will receive less training than today’s qualified nurses and “main duty is supporting trained nurses”.  It doesn’t take a genius to work out what that means, and many – including the Patients’ Association are voicing concerns.  And we already have lowest ratio in Europe of qualified nurses to patients.

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