Nurses in public hospitals will no longer have to run from patient to patient because they are so short-staffed, Health Minister David Clark says.
District health boards, the Ministry of Health and the nurses' union signed an accord at Parliament today to implement a programme that will ensure ongoing safe staffing at public hospitals.
The care capacity demand management (CCDM) tool was developed many years ago but its use by DHBs has been patchy.
With safe staffing a key issue for nurses in the midst of industrial action, Clark last week announced he had brokered the accord to formally put it into use and to bind all sides in agreement on its implementation and ongoing monitoring.
"In Opposition I heard a lot of stories of nurses who were stretched and struggling and also stories from patients on wards about their concerns that they literally saw nurses running to get things done."
The CCDM would be implemented by 2021 but Jim Green, chief executive of Tairawhiti DHB and spokesman for the district health boards, said some DHBs had already begun recruiting more nurses.
"There's varying degrees of implementation around the country," he said.
More resources from the Government plus an additional $38 million for more nursing staff would have an immediate and significant impact.
"I know that around the country, DHBS are already recruiting and taking measures to implement this straight away to give that jolt, that move, that nurses are wanting to see," Green told reporters.
He said there were no silver bullets for solving the staffing issue but the CCDM would help.
"The DHBs that have fully implemented ... have found it extremely useful in being able to address the sort of concerns that have been raised around nurses running, for instance."
The CCDM ensures DHBs match demand and resources to ensure patient safety, a safe workplace and organisational efficiency.
New Zealand Nurses Organisation chief executive Memo Musa said the accord gave the nurses top-level assurance that something was being done about safe staffing.
"Nurses were speaking weeks and weeks ago that something needs to be done about safe staffing."
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the Health Ministry would monitor the CCDM programme and how it was being implemented.
"I'll be reporting quarterly to the minister on progress with each district health board and implementing their CCDM obligations."
Clark said he expected DHB chief executives to be accountable for implementing the programme.
NZNO members will start voting this week on the latest offer from DHBs to settle their pay dispute, which led to a 24-hour strike at public hospitals this month.
The offer includes stepped pay rises of around 12 to 13 per cent for many members by August next year.
NZNO has said it also includes funding "to provide immediate relief for staffing and workload issues", on top of existing commitments to fully implement the care capacity and demand management scheme.