By Theresa Fyffe

DID you feel psychologically safe doing your job yesterday and will you tomorrow? Too many nursing staff in too many places in our health and care services in Scotland don’t. They are under so much pressure that their psychological wellbeing is under imminent, serious threat.

I believe strongly that individuals, whatever level they are working at, should feel safe and confident to raise concerns, challenge practice and offer ideas for improvement.

Too often now we are hearing reports from our members of staff being put under serious pressure to achieve unrealistic results, and to shoulder the faults of a system that is creaking, ever more painfully, at the joints.

Too often now staff are being singled out, in the workplace and the media, unsupported by their organisation or employer, taking the blame for failings in services that are now virtually hard-wired.

Too few staff; too few resources; a lack of trust in staff to do their jobs; inexperienced staff not feeling properly supported; fear of reporting concerns about patient safety; and no acceptable response or feedback when concerns are raised. These are just some of the problems, the tip of iceberg.

The RCN has consistently highlighted the issue of too few staff to meet the increasing demand on services, and the effect this has on patients and staff in the frontline. As one respondent to a recent RCN survey distressingly summed it up: “The most upsetting and stressful part of my job is being unable to give good patient care due to poor staffing levels […] and unfortunately it has become ‘normal’ to work under this constant stress. Never have I felt pressure like this in my career and have never felt so undervalued.”

But we also must not ignore the stress on those staff who have to beg, steal and borrow to fill staffing gaps on a daily basis.

Too often now managers and senior managers are not able to find the staff needed. Unless you have been in the situation of trying to provide care for people or find the right number of staff to provide that care, it is difficult to understand just what a toll the situation can take on your mental wellbeing.

It is long past the time to see political accountability for solving the problems in our health and care system. It is no longer acceptable simply to keep pushing the problems, blame and responsibility down the line.

Nursing and other staff are accountable under their professional codes for their own practice, but they need to know they are operating in a structure that supports them to do the right thing. A recent blog by the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s Director of Fitness to Practise, Matthew McClelland highlighted: “It is clear that there’s more to do to create a culture in health and social care where people feel safe and supported to speak up and have confidence that their concerns will be listened to and acted on.”

We need an open and honest culture, from our political leaders to the frontline. A culture that promotes shared leadership and decision making, that empowers our nurses, health care support workers and other clinicians, to describe the realities of increasing demand and limited resources right across the system and for their solutions to be heard an acted upon.

Theresa Fyffe is Director, RCN Scotland