Nurses’ Day 2024: A fitting rallying cry

Esther Clift is Chair of the Nurses and Allied Health Professionals (AHP) Council for the BGS. She tweets @EstherClift

International Nurses’ Day has been celebrated since 1965 and on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday, since 1975.  The focus for International Nurses’ Day this year is aptly ‘Our Nurses. Our Future. The economic power of care.’  We have growing evidence for the skill mix required for the best health outcomes and the economic impact of the right care in the right place at the right time, so this is a fitting rallying cry. 

Currently we see fewer nurses entering training and an increase in the need to recruit internationally to fill the places we have. Nursing student numbers continue to drop since the scrapping of the grant system for nurses in 2017.  In 2022 there was a 10% drop in the number of nurses enrolled to study in the UK. This was most significant in England: from 25,815 down to 23,240. This should really worry all of us who are concerned with caring for older people. We already have a vacancy rate of about 10% for nurses. Attrition is often attributed to the lack of career advancement, so we need to be mindful of ensuring that we have adequate development and education to support a workforce of growing capability.

We know that nurses provide the care which facilitates recovery and allows people to return home from hospital or remain safely cared for in their own home. The power of delivering good care closer to home means that fewer people living with frailty ever need a hospital admission, and will reduce the need for social care, all very expensive interventions.  Overall, the outcomes are better if there are more nurses available. As part of an MDT, nurses deliver care across all settings at all stages, from urgent community response to hospital at home to inpatient care. Older people value this continuity and quality of care, supporting them to live their independent lives as far as possible.

We have commissioned a series of BGS Blogs from our nursing workforce across the four nations, and I hope you will join me in appreciating the wisdom and experience exhibited here. It is heartening to hear the voices of our enthusiastic nurses working with older people this Nurses’ Day.  Their commitment and passion for their roles speaks volumes for their skill and capability - so essential to build healthy nations whose populations can be supported to live well and age well.  It is a huge privilege to work alongside you in supporting older people to live their best lives!