Hospital Dr News

Nursing numbers aren’t improving and patient safety is being risked

The under staffing of nurses has not improved over the past 12 months and continues to represent a worrying patient safety issue, a survey finds.

UNISON’s annual survey of nurses shows that nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents say wards are so understaffed that nurses cannot ensure safe, dignified and compassionate care.

The report Ratios Not Rationing highlights how patient-to-nurse ratios are worst on wards for the acutely ill or injured. Here, more than two in five (41%) nurses are caring for eight or more people, the point at which patient safety is at risk – according to official guidance.

The report reveals that unsafe staffing levels among nurses across the NHS are affecting patient care. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of 2,700 respondents said they were so busy they either had no time at all or were rushed when trying to comfort or talk to patients and relatives.

Half had to work through their breaks to make up for the lack of colleagues, and four in ten (41%) worked more than their contracted hours.

This is leading to exhaustion and burnout, with more than half (54%) of respondents saying they would leave their current job if they could. One in ten said they want to leave nursing altogether.

Setting acceptable nurse-to-patient ratios would improve recruitment and encourage nurses to stay in the profession, UNISON believes. It could also make nursing more attractive to the next generation of recruits.

The guidance for acute wards from NICE is there should be at least one nurse for every eight patients.

UNISON head of health Christina McAnea said: “Too few staff are still looking after too many patients, especially on wards where people are seriously ill. This is putting lives at risk.

“Nurses aren’t getting enough time to care properly because they’re so overstretched. The result is patients are ending up with pressure sores and suffering falls.

“It’s yet another worrying example of the pressures facing the NHS. Safe staffing should be a priority issue in the coming general election campaign.”

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