Safe-nursing report shows why health system needs fixing

A report ordered by Health Minister Andrew Little into a programme supposed to make sure public hospitals have enough nurses to run safely shows why the health system must be overhauled.

“I ordered this review back in August because of the long-standing concerns of the Nurses’ Organisation and the Public Service Association about a lack of follow-through by District Health Boards on the safe-staffing accord for public hospitals. The review report, which I’m releasing today, confirms those concerns,” Andrew Little said.

“The Care Capacity Demand Management Programme (CCDM) was agreed to in 2006 by the previous Labour Government to monitor and manage nursing staffing levels in hospitals.

“It was to be implemented in 2009, but by then the Government had changed and the incoming National Government failed to take it seriously. As a result, the scheme wasn’t implemented in most hospitals for more than a decade.

“When Labour returned to Government we committed to proper implementation of CCDM by June 2021, and we provided additional funding for district health boards to do it.

“However, just seven DHBs met that deadline. This is not acceptable. This inconsistency between DHBs is one of the reasons why we are reforming the health system.

“Despite the inconsistent application of the CCDM, however, we are making progress and improving nursing staffing levels.

“Since we became the Government in 2017, we’ve employed an extra 3621 nurses in DHBs, increased nurses’ wages, made it easier for foreign-trained nurses to settle in New Zealand, and we’ve got recruitment programmes under way,” Andrew Little said

Andrew Little says he agrees with the report’s criticism of a lack of national workforce planning.

“Under the reformed health system, the 20 DHBs will be replaced in July by a single national agency, Health New Zealand, which will be better able to plan for and manage the nursing workforce right across the country,” Andrew Little said.

“It is critically important that we fix the nursing shortage for the sake of our overworked nurses and to ensure the safety of patients and our health reforms will make nationwide work force planning much easier as well as ensuring greater accountably.”

The review was led by former Nurses Organisation associate professional services manager Hilary Graham-Smith. The other members of the panel were Dr Jill Clendon, Dr Rhonda McKelvie and Kapua Quinn.