Last year representatives from the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO), DHBs and the Ministry of Health signed an accord committing to sufficient nurses and midwives in public hospitals.

One of the commitments was to develop accountability mechanisms to ensure DHBs implement additional staffing needs by June 30, 2021.

However, NZNO associate professional services manager Hilary Graham-Smith said while some DHBs are doing well others have a long way to go.

“I think some DHBs will really struggle so they need to up their game, of course we will help them.

“Safer staffing is extremely important for patient safety and for nurses who are understaffed, overworked and over stressed.”

NZNO has been trying to achieve safer staffing for nurses with DHBS in New Zealand for the last 10 years.

The accord is positive and should help but it needs to be embraced by everyone to prevent patients and nurses being put at risk, she said.

“We’ve waited 10 years for this progress, it’s been really slow.”

Ministry of Health chief nursing officer Jane Bodkin said the accord is a longer-term approach to safe staffing and healthy workplaces.

“Nurses are often the first port of call for people seeking health care in New Zealand, either in primary care, DHBs or other parts of the health care sector.

“That’s why it’s so important to support nurses to deliver the best care they can by boosting their numbers and helping to grow a safe and healthy workforce.”

In addition to signing the accord, a commitment was made to provide immediate staffing relief for DHB nurses, by employing 500 extra nurses.

“Already most of our DHBs have completed their recruitment and those nurses are already working on our wards, in the community and other practice areas.

“We understand from the DHBs who have already employed their extra staff that this move has had a positive impact already on the safety and wellbeing of staff and their patients.”

Since the accord was signed last year, an operational group has developed options for the Minister of Health looking at improving employment and training for all New Zealand nursing graduates and options for developing accountability mechanisms to ensure DHBs implement the additional staffing needs already identified.

New Zealand is not the only country to recognise the need for more nurses.

On Monday, Royal College of Nursing general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair will call for safe staffing levels to be enshrined in law at the RCN annual conference in Liverpool.

A BBC article said Kinnair will request tougher rules on safe staffing be introduced.

More information on the accord can be found here.


  1. As a student in my last year of nursing, I can see why their is a shortage. The way courses are ran and the demands that are place upon students physically and mentally burns you out before you even start your career. This needs to change so more people look at it as a career option.


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