New eastern region chief of nursing union warns of fewer nurses qualifying in years ahead
- Credit: Archant
The new regional head of the world's largest nursing union has sounded a warning over an expected drop in the number of nurses qualifying in the next few years.
Teresa Budrey, 52, who is born and bred in Norwich, has become the Royal College of Nursing's (RCN) head of its east of England branch.
She began her career has a healthcare assistant in 1984 and qualified as a nurse in 1989.
Ms Budrey worked for 20 years with patients with learning disabilities, before leaving in 2004 to join the RCN on a full-time basis.
She became interim chief in September, but was given the role permanently this month.
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In her first interview - given to this newspaper - she said:
- Not enough nurses are being recruited and trained.
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- Nurses and healthcare assistants are not taking breaks at work because of the 'immense pressure' they are under.
- The healthcare system is not adapting fast enough to the changes in technology and treatment.
'The main issue is how it is becoming harder for nurses to provide safe and good-quality care to patients given the current resource and staffing issues,' Ms Budrey said.
'The pressures are immense and the healthcare system isn't serving the patients well.
'We haven't trained enough nurses and we can't recruit enough nurses.'
The bursary issue
She believes there will be fewer nurses graduating in three years time than currently, because of the government's decision to scrap nursing bursaries.
The government says this will free up about £800m a year to create additional nursing roles, but the RCN believes the change is unfair and risky.
'Applications for student nursing at university are down (23pc),' Ms Budrey said.
'We have got real concerns that there will be a lower number of nurses graduating in a few years time.
'We're calling on the government to recognise there is a problem.'
Ms Budrey said nursing staff have never faced such pressures as they do now.
Asked if she remembered a time when nurses were under more pressure than today, Ms Budrey said: 'I think we used to have summers when we would fall back into a good flow of patients.
'Within acute services you knew there would be more patients needing treatment during winter.
'That's gone now - the pressures are constant.
'And patients in care homes and the community have more complex needs.
'We have more technology to keep people alive longer which is great, but at the moment the system isn't adapting fast enough.'
How does the future look?
Senior NHS chiefs have ordered each area of the country to develop integrated plans for how the health service will provide care to patients in the years ahead - known as Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP).
Ms Budrey said the STPs showed promise strategically but added much more detail is needed.
She said there would be changes to the nursing workforce, and welcomed the regulation of nursing associates - a role which has been developed as a bridge between HCAs and nurses.
However Ms Budrey said nursing must be made a more attractive profession and she highlighted the current 1pc cap on pay-rises as a 'major issue'.
And she said nursing staff are being left so short-staffed that they are unable to look after themselves properly at work, for example by not having time to take lunch breaks or go to the toilet.
She is urging nurses to share stories of their daily challenges with the union.
Ms Budrey is now looking forward to concentrating fully on her role and said she hopes to act as a voice for nurses at all levels.
'I'm really passionate about nursing and East Anglia,' she said.
'I believe I understand the challenges and concerns faced by nurses at all levels.
'I'm proud to be in the region and be able to give nurses a voice.'
The RCN represents more than 435,000 nurses, student nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants in the UK. The union also has members from other countries.
It represents the professional interests of nursing staff working in the public, private, and voluntary sectors.
If you want to get in touch with the RCN you can call 0345 772 6100 (8.30am-8.30pm every day of the year) or click here.