These standards apply across all areas of nursing and all sectors within the United Kingdom.
The standards are designed to support a safe and effective nursing workforce alongside each nation’s legislation.
They are to be used by:
- those responsible for funding, planning, contracting, commissioning, designing and providing services which require a nursing workforce in any setting.
- nurse leaders involved in workforce planning and setting staffing establishments and developing individuals within their workforce.
- all members of Executive/Corporate boards who are accountable and responsible for ensuring the safety and effectiveness of services.
- employers responsible for improving the health, wellbeing and safety of the nursing workforce.
- local, regional and national organisations seeking to effect positive change for the nursing workforce.
- regulators of health and care services
- professional Regulators, for example, Nursing and Midwifery Council.
These standards do not define specific models or tools of nursing workforce planning.
Where there is established practice or setting specific guidance, these should be followed, and the nursing workforce standards are to be used alongside them.
The nursing workforce as defined in this resource is intended to include registered nurses, registered nursing associates (England) and nursing support workers. It does not include supernumerary students, volunteer staff or other ancillary staff such as housekeeping and clerical staff. Midwifery is not included as they have specific existing guidance.
These workforce standards are grouped into three key themes.
Responsibility and accountability - these four standards outline where the responsibility and accountability lie within an organisation for setting, reviewing and taking decisions and action regarding the nursing workforce.
Clinical leadership and safety - these six standards outline the need for registered nurses with lead clinical professional responsibility for teams, their role in nursing workforce planning and the professional development of that workforce.
Health, safety and wellbeing - these four standards outline the health, safety, dignity, equality and respect values of the nursing workforce to enable them to provide the highest quality of care.
Executive nurse - a registered nurse who has executive responsibility on the corporate board and is ordinarily responsible for assuring the board in nursing workforce issues. Executive nurses have a pivotal and transformational role in an organisation. They navigate a complex set of stakeholders and partners in the service of organisational values and must use their influence at board level to guide nursing priorities for their organisation.
Registered nurse lead - focus on setting and upholding standards. Their role is to fulfil the organisation's vision, mission, and long-term plan. The registered nurse lead will have operational responsibility for ensuring there are enough nursing staff to run a service. This function may be fulfilled by registered nurses holding different titles, but the requirement of the role is set out in the descriptor for Standard 5: each clinical team or service that provides nursing care will have a registered nurse lead.
Staffing for safe and effective care - having the right number of registered nurses and nursing support workers with the right knowledge, skills and experience in the right place at the right time is critical to the delivery of safe and effective care for all those who use health and care services.
Nursing support workers - support the registered nurse in the provision of nursing care. This term encompasses a wide range of roles and titles which may include nursing associate, assistant practitioner, health care assistant, health care support worker and nursing assistant.
Corporate board - the body with the ultimate governance responsibility for any organisation providing health and care services.
People who use services - in these standards, this phrase refers to those who use or are affected by the services of professionals within the nursing workforce. This umbrella term also covers client, service user, resident, child, patient and other common terms.