Welsh health board nursing director Ruth Walker issued the warning to executives of the Nursing and Midwifery Council during the bi-monthly meeting of the regulator’s council this morning.
“We mustn’t fall into the trap of thinking anybody is better than nobody and that we maintain those standards”
Ms Walker, who is also a registrant member of the NMC council, said she was aware of the “pressure” that leaders were under to play their part in addressing staffing issues.
Nursing and midwifery shortages have been widely regarded by key leaders including in the government as the most pressing challenge facing the health service and the biggest threat to the success of the new NHS Long Term Plan, released in January.
Latest data shows there are more than 39,000 nurse vacancies in England’s NHS provider sector alone.
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Ms Walker noted that the NMC had invested a significant amount of time over the past year in changes aimed at supporting recruitment, such as rethinking international registration and return to practice procedures.
However, she urged executives to not let this agenda dominate their attention at the detriment of the NMC’s core regulatory duties.
“I know the pressure that the executives are under in order to try and assist to get the workforce numbers that are required,” Ms Walker told the meeting.
“I think we have to remember that our role and function is about regulation and standards of education and the standards that we hold registrants to,” she stated.
Ms Walker, executive nurse director at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, called on NMC leaders to “keep that the focus”.
Andrea Sutcliffe, the NMC’s new chief executive, backed Ms Walker’s comments and vowed to strive for quality over quantity.
Responding to Ms Walker’s caution, she said: “It’s very helpful that you have articulated it in that way because it does indeed underpin all of our activity and one of the things I think is very important is that we don’t fall into the trap of thinking anybody is better than nobody and that we maintain those standards.
“We are clear about our expectations around safety and we are clear about our expectations on people being able to care in the way you or I would want ourselves or our loved ones to be supported,” Ms Sutcliffe added.