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Midwife crisis demonstrates need for flexible staffing within NHS, says REC

Midwife crisis demonstrates need for flexible staffing within NHS, says REC

The REC today reiterated the need for effective flexible working patterns in the public sector following recent reports of dangerously low staffing levels within the NHS.

The lack of available midwives was flagged up in a recent report by health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission (CQC). This provided the latest example of how knee-jerk staffing cuts can have a direct impact on patient care. The need for balance and for harnessing the benefits of the UKs agency workforce has been the central message of the RECs ongoing public sector resourcing campaign.

Commenting on the wider implications of the CQC report, Tom Hadley, the RECs Director of Policy and Professional Services, said:
The lack of available midwives demonstrates the extent of the staffing challenge facing the NHS as well as other public sector employers. The squeeze on public expenditure will inevitably impact on the workforce but we must avoid knee-jerk cuts that not only impact on patient care but also place unsustainable pressure on remaining staff.

One solution is to make more use of flexible staffing arrangements such as temporary and locum staff in order to meet peaks in demand and provide essential cover in emergency situations such as complicated births. Rather than seeing agency costs as one of the first budget lines to be slashed, NHS Trusts and other public bodies must recognise the importance of being able to call upon suitably qualified and properly vetted flexible staff.

Hadley concluded:
The recent report also underlines the need for strict guidelines for example, in terms of number of workers per bed - in order to provide some objective measurement that adequate staffing levels are being met. In 2011, the public sector will see the real impact of 2010s budget cuts - it is crucial that staffing costs are not seen as an easy way to balance the books with no regard to the impact on front line services.

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