Eight in 10 (83%) nurses have said the staffing levels on their last shift were not sufficient to meet patient needs, an increase from 73% in 2020.
An RCN survey of more than 20,000 nursing staff – published for the start of RCN Congress, its annual conference, today – revealed only 25% of shifts had the planned number of registered nurses working, a sharp fall from 42% in 2020 and 45% five years ago.
In addition, 59% of survey respondents said they felt upset or sad that they could not provide the level of care they wanted, an increase from 54% in 2020. Meanwhile, 51% said they felt demoralised on their last shift, an increase from 43% in 2020.
Speaking to more than 2,000 delegates the RCN’s first in-person Congress in Glasgow since the Covid-19 pandemic, RCN chief executive Pat Cullen addressed the Government, saying that nurses and patients ‘have had enough’.
She said: ‘Nursing staff are being driven out by the current way of working – the shortage of staff and too often the poor culture. By that I mean the mean bullying and harassment…
‘To those from Government listening to my words – we have had enough. The patients and those we care for have had enough. We are tired, fed up, demoralised, and some of us are leaving the profession because we have lost hope. Do something about it,’ she added.
‘Don’t ever think this is normal. It is not. If there was ever a time to break this cycle, it is now. Let’s send the message in this hall today that nursing is saying loud and clear: enough is enough.’
In her speech, Ms Cullen also said the RCN is ‘making a change’ internally, which will be ‘led by the people’, including acting on recommendations from a report from KPMG and an upcoming report on the organisation’s culture expected to be published this summer.
The RCN’s survey data comes after the latest NMC data showed that more than 25,000 registered nurses left the register last year alone, an increase of 13% on the previous year.
The RCN is calling on UK Government and devolved administrations to take accountability for nursing workforce planning and supply in law, and publish independently verifiable assessments of population needs to directly inform what is invested into the health and care nursing workforce.
In 2021 the RCN secured the Welsh Government’s commitment to extend section 25B of the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016 to children’s inpatient wards – and is now campaigning to extend safe staffing legislation into community, mental health and care homes.
In 2018, research from the University of Southampton found the hazard of death increased by 3% for every day a patient experienced a registered nurse staffing shortage.