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Patients left ‘unseen on daily basis’ amid community nurse shortages

Patients left ‘unseen on daily basis’ amid community nurse shortages

Four in 10 community nursing shifts are missing almost half their planned number of registered nurses, according to latest figures from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

Meanwhile, around only a third (36%) of community nursing staff said their most recent shift had the planned number of registered nurses on it.

The findings come from the RCN’s most recent ‘Last Shift Survey’ of over 11,000 members – including 2,319 from community settings – and others from hospital and A&E.

Across all settings examined in the survey, 81% of respondents said there are not sufficient nurses to meet the needs of patient safety.

The RCN is now calling for safety-critical limits on the maximum number of patients a single nurse can be responsible for.

A nurse working in the community in the South West of England, said: ‘We have days when we have 60 visits unallocated because we don’t have enough staff. Every day we are asked to do more. We are always rushing.’

Another nurse, also working in the community in the South of England, said: ‘We leave over 50 patients requiring nursing care unseen on a daily basis due to poor staffing levels.

‘This leads to increases in hospital admissions and death. It is left to us to decide who gets seen and who gets missed, which is heartbreaking.’

RCN acting general secretary and chief executive Professor Nicola Ranger said: ‘Without safety-critical limits on the maximum number of patients they can care for, nurses are being made responsible for dozens at a time, often with complex needs. It is dangerous to patients and demoralising for nursing staff.

‘When patients can’t access safe care in the community, conditions worsen, and they end up in hospital where workforce shortages are just as severe. This vicious cycle fails staff and patients – it can’t go on.

‘We desperately need urgent investment in the nursing workforce but also to see safety-critical nurse-to-patient ratios enshrined in law. That is how we improve care and stop patients coming to harm.’

Last week Nursing in Practice exclusively reported on concerns that healthcare assistants were being asked to work beyond their pay scale and training within a community nursing team in Cornwall.

As the general election fast approaches, social care organisations have been urging political parties to ‘talk more’ about social care in their campaigns.

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