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Staff shortages "compromise care"

Patient care is compromised at least once a week according to four in 10 nurses, a professional body has claimed.

Over half of Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members (55%) say there are not enough staff to meet patient needs, and the same number find they are too busy to provide the level of care they would like to.

Two-thirds (61%) of NHS nurses say they are under pressure and their workload is too much.

The RCN is now calling for all political parties to commit to guaranteeing safe staffing levels for all nursing shifts.

They are issuing a manifesto, ahead of the coming general election, with a series of demands including giving nurses time to train, regulating the drinks industry and improving care for those with long-term health conditions.

Dr Peter Carter, head of the RCN, said: "Policy makers must look at workforce in conjunction with ability to deliver high-quality and safe care. As we've seen too often, where there are not enough nurses, patient care suffers."

The RCN's annual survey of nurses also found that with 200,000 nurses expected to retire in the next 10 years and fewer nurses entering training, the number of trained nurses available in the UK could fall.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "The local NHS must ensure it has the appropriate number of staff to deliver services for patients. It is important that it helps staff to use innovation and new technology to drive up the quality of care and deliver value for money."

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Royal College of Nursing

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"Re: the last paragraph statement by the DOH. What a stupid statement! How can trusts possibly make savings and increase staff numbers!! Are these people in their ivory towers in touch with reality? For years staff numbers have diminished with the reassurance to the public 'This will NOT affect standards of patient care'. Well it not only HAS but IS and the answer is NOT to set unachievable targets or backfill nursing posts with
support staff because they are a 'cheaper' alternative. I think a system of trust funding nurse education could give newly qualified staff nurses at least some experience in clinical practice if an agreement incorporating the guarantee of even a year post qualification work placement could be arranged. I seriously think we should focus on solutions rather than complain about conditions and for goodness sake NMC and RCN support your profession not government policy!! Increasing dependence on technology is no substitute for hands on 'nursing care' sound observation and bedside intervention" - James A Bremner, Inverness

"As well as staff morale being affected by this, so are newly qualified nurses. I have recently qualified and very passionate about community nursing, but after many applications and enquiries and on average 1-2 interviews a week, I still cannot get a job. The feedback I receive is "lack of experience" every time. How on earth can we increase staffing numbers with staff that are really passionate about nursing which will result in better quality care for the patients when no-one will give us
the chance to work and build on that experience? Saving money is not the reason we are here, we want to give good quality care to support patients when they need it" - Kim French, North west

"A lack of staff is a given when it comes to compromising care. I am constantly surprised to see that in surgical nursing there is a constant drive to reduce frontline staff to save money. Then what happens? Complications, neglect, monitoring and deteriorating health isn't acted upon, not because staff cannot 'manage their time well' as is the oft repeated patronising response from band 6-8, but because there are not enough qualified staff on a shift. Another bug bear is due to the lack of
staff, the new class of nurses, eg, the expert specialists (tissue
viability, parenteral nutrition, etc) swanning around dispensing words of wisdom and prescribe care for the overworked and understaffed staff nurses, the 'real' experts in surgical nursing. The other day I bleeped the parenteral feed spec. nurse to assess nutritional status of a patient at 8 am, she turned up at midday, took loads of time, gave her advice and when
I said it'll be done in about an hour - she replied well if its not your priority then I'll do it!!! It wasn't her priority for over four hours!! One other point is that once promoted many band 6-8 do not remain hands on nurses, get all strategic and have meetings on clinical governance!! That is to say tall about quality at a time when their staff has chronic staffing levels, record number of complaints due to their attempts to save money" - Bruce, North west

"I also feel patient care is compromised. I have worked in a hospital and now working in the community I have less time. All I seem to do is rush everywhere to cope with caseload and mountains of paperwork, attend courses and manage a team, and consistently go without lunch breaks. I have been told there is no reason why I should not be able to take a lunch break, so clearly the management and PCT I work for are not listening, and I have given up writing incident forms as I end up doing things in my own time" - Jackie Glenister, Bedfordshire