Standards Of Care Are Under Threat From “Poorly-Qualified” Nurses, Say Academics

Standards of care are under threat from under-qualified nurses and health workers, experts say. Two leading nurse academics told the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine that NHS care would be better if more nurses had degrees.

{mosimage}Professors Linda Shields and Roger Watson said care was also threatened by the use of poorly qualified staff such as healthcare assistants.

But nursing leaders said the profession was highly skilled and vibrant.

The experts from Hull and Sheffield universities said: “Educating nurses to the highest standards is better for the health of all, and is cost effective.

“The consequences of poor education and mistakes are deaths, so the imperative to educate nurses to the highest standard, to provide them with ways to access the best evidence, the critical thinking skills to use that evidence safely and the skills to generate their own knowledge is mandatory.”

Latest statistics show that just 4% of the nursing workforce have degrees. The professors also argued that nurses were being replaced by less qualified staff. While medicine without nursing was “an untenable concept”, things were heading that way.

“In the UK, nursing is under threat and could pass away, to be replaced by technicians, minimally-educated health care assistants and unqualified health workers.

“In the UK, nursing is haemorrhaging knowledge, skills and people from all sides.

“Unqualified health care assistants are taking nursing skills, as cheaper workers with scant education are replacing registered nurses.”

Dr Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said reports of the death of nursing “have been greatly exaggerated”.

“Nursing is a growing and vibrant profession. Nurses are at the heart of modernising the NHS and have been instrumental in bringing down waiting times, improving patient care and taking on extended roles, such as performing minor surgery and prescribing drugs.

“Far from being simply a hearts and hands vocation, nursing does need to be about heads too.”

And he added: “Running the health service is a team effort and overseas nurses and healthcare assistants are an integral part of that team.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “Nurse education in England is world-renowned and kept under close review to ensure that it keeps up with patient needs and changes in technology.”