The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has called for the end of the growing trend of recruiting staff without registered nursing qualifications into registered nursing posts, warning that the practice compromises patient safety.
The RCN claims to have found instances where employers have formally opened registered nurse vacancies to people without registered nursing qualifications, or from different professional backgrounds – including physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
A recent advert for a matron post responsible for older people’s mental health and learning disability services was open to ‘registered professional clinician with demonstrable evidence of working at senior level’ – but did not say it required NMC registration.
“Filling registered nurse vacancies with those who are not registered nurses is not filling those vacancies: acting in this way not only leads to vacancies elsewhere but also carries a risk to patient care,’ said Royal College of Nursing Acting General Secretary and Chief Executive, Pat Cullen.
‘The very fact that employers are needing to fill nursing posts in this way should set alarm bells ringing with ministers that cannot be ignored and spur them into a proper investment in the long-term future of the nursing workforce.’
The RCN restated its commitment to multidisciplinary working in health and social care and its respect for the knowledge and expertise of the many professions involved. But pointed to to a number of inquiries and reviews, including the Francis report into events at Mid-Staffordshire, which have highlighted the risk of not having the right nursing care available. Patient safety and need, it says, must drive the shape of the workforce.
‘We respect and value the role of all health care professionals in the multidisciplinary team but we believe that only registered nurses, and our nursing support worker colleagues, can deliver safe and effective nursing care,’ said Rachel Hollis, Chair of the RCN’s Professional Nursing Committee.
‘We need to see all employers in health and social care ensure that where a vacancy exists for a registered nurse, this is open to registered nurse applicants only. Strong nurse leadership not only improves patient outcomes but also helps in developing the skills of the whole nursing workforce.’