Hospital Dr News

NHS facing a nursing crisis as it heads into winter with staff shortages, report says

Hospitals are facing a staffing crisis this winter, the RCN has warned.

More than 30,000 nurses were surveyed to gain a snapshot of their experiences on the last shift they worked.

The ensuing RCN report shows over half said there were less nursing staff on the shift than planned and that care quality suffered as a result.

More than a third said they had to leave elements of patient care undone due to a lack of time, while two-thirds said they worked at least an hour over shift unpaid.

Almost half of respondents said no action was taken when they raised concerns about staffing levels.

It was also reported that:

  • patients are no longer afforded enough dignity, even dying alone
  • colleagues have burned out and have become sick themselves, unable to work
  • many nursing staff question their future and contemplate leaving the profession
  • members struggle to give their families enough support after shifts that can exceed 12 hours.

“When this many professionals blow the whistle, they cannot be overlooked,” said Janet Davies, RCN Chief Executive.

“The nursing shortage is biting hard and needs the attention of ministers. This warning comes from the very people they cannot afford to lose.”

The RCN is calling for new legislation across the UK that guarantees safe and effective nurse staffing.


Nuffield Trust Chief Executive Nigel Edwards commented: “NHS staff and their patients are bearing the brunt of an abject and long-term failure to plan the nursing workforce.

“Successive governments have not equipped the NHS to meet the changing needs of patients, instead allowing the size and make-up of the future workforce to be determined by drives to hold down health budgets. This short-sighted approach has led us to the situation so powerfully described in the RCN’s report.

“As well as tackling workforce shortages through attracting nurses to the profession, it is vital to hang on to the committed and talented staff we already have. Nurses are the largest professional group in the NHS but that is not an excuse for treating them as interchangeable units. Yet the report reveals a worrying disregard for the existing nursing workforce, making it likely – and understandable – that many nurses will vote with their feet.”

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