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Nurse stress jeopardising patient care

Staff cuts and excessive workloads are leading to unprecedented levers of nurse stress and ill health, a report has revealed. 

Based on a survey of over 2,000 nursing staff from across the NHS and private sector, the report released by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) found that more than half (55%) of nurses had been made unwell by stress in the past year. 

The most significant cause of stress was feeling “unable to deliver the care” they would like, increasing workloads, feeling unsupported by managers and the rapid pace of change. 

However, most nurses (82%) said they had gone to work despite feeling too ill to do so. 

The RCN has warned that patient care could be jeopardised. 

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the RCN said: “Worryingly, this report shows that rather than an environment which supports staff, some employers are instead adopting panic behaviours. 

“Staff report being intimidated and blamed, and feel they have no way of speaking out about threats to patient care. Individual nurses are clearly going the extra mile to make sure the job is done, however, the risk of burnout is very real, and very widespread.”

The RCN has called for urgent action to protect staff welfare and patient care. 

According to the RCN, the Health and Safety Executive should take enforcement action where employers are failing to meet the legal requirement to assess and manage the risk of work-related stress. 

Dr Carter added: “There is much that managers and employers can do, and should be doing, to support staff and keep patients safe. By ensuring there are enough staff to deliver care, and enabling staff to raise concerns safely, the positive working culture which exists in many places could be the reality everywhere.” 

More than half (56%) of the survey respondents said they have experienced verbal or physical violence from patients or service users over the past year, and one in five (23%) reported being bullied by managers. 

One in nine (11.5%) had been injured by moving and handling patients during the last year, with a further 4% being injured by potentially serious needlestick injuries.