Letter: Planning to beat nurse shortage

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The Independent Online
Sir: A commitment to more funds for the NHS is always welcome ("Dorrell wins pounds 1bn more for NHS", 5 November). However, in addition to funding, there are two basic issues which need to be addressed.

Firstly, bed shortages. This really means that there is a shortage of registered nurses to care for patients. There are not enough nurses being recruited, and those that are there are set to retire in increasing numbers as the century ends. The solution is to plan ahead; establish a workforce planning system that recognises the value of registered nurses and ensures that there are enough in the system to meet demand.

Second, we are likely to see even more patients waiting in accident and emergency departments this winter before being given a bed. The Government has gone so far as to establish a system to monitor the availability of specialist beds. The RCN has published a six-point plan which, if implemented, would avoid the problems arising in all sectors.

For example, hospitals should appoint bed managers - usually nurses with the authority to cut across departmental boundaries and manage admissions to the wards. Those that have already adopted this system have reported reduced waiting times. We wait to see if this and our other suggestions will be taken up.

CHRISTINE HANCOCK

General Secretary

Royal College of Nursing

London W1

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