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Staff at St Davids and St Christophers Nursing and Residential Homes in North Ascot | Guidance on Care Homes

Nursing union sets out 14 standards for working conditions

Nursing membership body the Royal College of Nursing has set out new Nursing Workforce Standards to define the working conditions for safe and effective nursing care.

The 14 standards – the first of their kind – have been designed for use by those who fund, plan, commission, design, review and provide services which require a nursing workforce. 

They can also be used to help nursing staff understand what they should expect to be in place to enable them to do their jobs safely and effectively.  

Guidance to branch reps states that the standards can be used to “support and represent individual members but also to work collectively to question and influence for change either through branch activity or partnership working with unions and senior management”.

The standards are grouped into three themes. They are:

Responsibility and accountability – outlining where the responsibility and accountability lie within an organisation for setting, reviewing, and taking decisions and action on staffing levels and skill mix.

Due to their size, care homes are specifically exempted from appointing an executive nurse. Instead, care homes should be able to evidence the use of the nursing expertise of their commissioning body/partner organisation to confirm that nurse staffing is optimal. In addition, there should be an identified registered nurse lead with operational responsibility for ensuring the nursing workforce can provide safe and effective care. Board/senior management will remain accountable for safe staffing.

Clinical leadership and safety – outlining the needs of nurse leaders with professional responsibility for teams, their role in workforce planning and the professional development of staff. 

Health, safety and wellbeing – outlining what’s needed to support nursing staff to provide the highest quality of care, including safe shift working, the ability to raise concerns and the right to work in a safe environment that prioritises staff wellbeing. 

Examples of standards include:

  • Rostering patterns for the nursing workforce will take into account best practice on safe shift working. Rostering patterns should be agreed in consultation with staff and their representatives.
  • The nursing workforce should be treated with dignity, respect, and enabled to raise concerns without fear of detriment, and to have these concerns responded to.
  • The nursing workforce is entitled to work in healthy and safe environments

The standards apply across the whole of the UK and to every setting where nursing care is delivered.

Polling by the RCN reveals seven in 10 people believe there are too few nurses to provide safe care. Of the 1,752 members of the public who were surveyed, more than a quarter said they felt themselves or their families may not get the care required when needed.

There are currently more than 50,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS across the UK, with many more unrecorded vacancies in social care. This is expected to be exacerbated by the pandemic, as many nursing staff face burnout and exhaustion.  


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