Nurse shortages 'putting patients at risk'
There are too few nurses caring for patients, which puts people at serious risk, and drastic action is needed to rebuild the nursing workforce, the Royal College of Nursing's chief executive Janet Davies says.
"Safe staffing levels aren’t an optional extra – having the right
number of nurses is essential to ensure that patients can recover
"While health care assistants play a crucial role in the
team, research shows that support roles cannot replace registered
nurses if patients are to receive safe care,” Ms Davies said.
Her comments came in response to the publication of data analysed by the Health Service Journal (HSJ) which found that 96% of hospitals have failed to meet their own planned level for registered nurses.
a time when the Government should be attracting as many people as
possible into the nursing profession, the RCN says pay is failing to
keep up with the cost of living. The RCN has called on the Government to
improve nursing pay and tackle the apparent drop in student
applications following the removal of bursaries in England.
survey revealed that 214 acute hospitals – 96% of those reporting –
failed to meet their own planned level for registered nurses working
during the day in October 2016. Meanwhile, 85% – 190 hospitals – missed
their target for nurses working at night in the same month.
reported: "The majority of hospitals below their planned staffing
levels for nurses were at or above plan for healthcare assistant
staffing, suggesting some sites might be filling gaps in the nursing
workforce with less qualified staff. In all eight quarters, the majority
of hospitals exceeded their planned HCA staffing levels, with even more
exceeding their HCA plans at night.”
Professor Peter Griffiths,
from Southampton University and who was a member of the NHS Improvement
safe staffing committee for acute wards, said: "This is clearly not a
good place for the NHS to be and it isn’t getting any better.”He
said using healthcare assistants to fill gaps in nurse staffing could be
a reasonable strategy. However, he added: "If that becomes a long-term
approach to filling gaps you could very easily delude yourself that
you’re maintaining safety because you’re maintaining numbers. But
actually all the research shows the key workforce for maintaining the
safety of patients is the registered nursing workforce, so there is the
risk of a false reassurance.”