Readers’ letters - March 7

A nurse at work  but the gap between NHS staff needed and staff available should be treated as urgent says a correspondent
A nurse at work  but the gap between NHS staff needed and staff available should be treated as urgent says a correspondent

It’s a matter of urgency

Working in any environment experiencing staff shortages can be incredibly challenging and have potentially serious consequences. This is particularly true of nursing.

New figures, obtained through Freedom of Information requests published this week, suggest there were more than 1,876 nursing vacancies in the North West and some 23,400 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as of December 1 last year. The latter is the equivalent to nine per cent of the workforce.

Sadly, this is no surprise to the Royal College of Nursing. Nursing posts are often the first target when savings need to be made, leading the NHS to find itself dangerously short and having to spend more on agency staff and recruitment from other countries. The UK is not training enough nurses to meet our needs, and changes to student funding are yet another threat to future staff numbers.

The consequences are felt by nursing staff and patients alike – nurses work under relentless pressure and patients face delays and unmet needs. Tackling the problem is made no easier because vacancies are no longer collected, held or published centrally so we could effectively assess workforce gaps nationally. Freedom of Information allows us some insight but is by no means perfect.

The gap between NHS staff needed and staff available must now be reduced as a matter of urgency.

Estephanie Dunn

Regional Director

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in the North West

Try out the university

Whilst it is probably great news that we are all living longer, we also know that this has led to a lot of older people outliving their relatives, and loneliness has become the new norm for many, especially when it also brings a dread of leaving the house.

May I therefore recommend trying out the U3A – the University of the Third Age. Although it’s called a university, there is no campus, there are no teachers, only “leaders” – members who are willing to share a particular passion with you – you need no qualifications, and there are no exams to pass. You are free to stop going to a class if you eventually find it’s not for you.

It is a friendly organisation which brings together retired and semi-retired people, run by its members, where you can explore new ideas and projects. There is a modest annual membership fee, but beyond that there may be only a small charge towards the expense of maybe hiring a room for the session, or if equipment is needed. Some “leaders” will open up their own home, with no fee.

There are over 900 U3As in the UK with nearly 400,000 members and new ones opening up all the time. The Third Age head office is in Bromley, Kent, 020 8466 6139.

I’ve been a member for several years, and have done various classes. For the past few years I’ve been a member of a craft group. We meet throughout the whole year, knitting and crocheting things for those in need, teddies for kids in war-torn countries abroad, or blankets to keep people warm. Our latest project is nearer to home, “twiddlemuffs”. They help to keep the mind switched on when affected by things like Alzheimer’s.

When you contact them, let them know if you have problems, like being hard of hearing, I’m sure someone will come up with a solution.

There are many classes to choose from. It gets you out of the house, and best of all, you make lots of new friends. And if you are housebound but have computer access, there is a virtual U3A online.

Denise Marsden

Address supplied