A new survey of almost 3,000 nurses from across the UK reveals a health service under severe strain, with 65% of staff saying that they did not have enough time with patients and 55% reporting that as a result care was left undone. This is despite the fact that 50% worked through their breaks or beyond their shift.
The survey – undertaken on Tuesday 4 March – shows a typical ‘day in the life’ of the NHS. The majority (60%) felt that the number of staff working on the day resulted in a lower standard of care and more shocking still were statistics showing that 45% of nurses were caring for 8 or more patients.
Despite the many recent investigations into the NHS, the survey report – Running on Empty – exposes clear failings to improve staffing levels. The impact on patients was plain to see. A worrying 48% of respondents described their organisation as either being at risk of a similar situation to the notorious Mid Staffs, or stated that it was already happening in parts, or across their hospital.
The over-use of bank and agency staff is also exposed in the survey with 45% of staff reporting that they worked alongside one or more agency/bank workers. The use of agency or bank staff can have an impact on continuity of care and can cause problems due to unfamiliarity with the working environment.
• Three quarters of all midwives and 71% of all nurses (general and mental health) said they did not have adequate time with each patient.
• 59% of all nurses on a night shift said there were elements of care they were unable to give.
• 92% supported minimum staffing levels, with 65% supporting a legally enforceable minimum.
• 45% of staff were looking after 8 or more patients during their shift, this increased to 53% on night duty.
Patrick Harrington, general secretary of the Solidarity union, commented:
“Our Union has been highlighting the effect of the cuts on our public services. This report once again underlines the damage being done to our NHS by the ConDem austerity agenda. Once more we see that ordinary people are paying for the crisis caused by the bankers and their allies in the Political Class. The NHS must be protected and developed as a national asset which belongs to us all. Read the heartfelt comments from people who care about the NHS and ask yourself whether you should provide any support or encouragement to the shysters and con-men running our political establishment.”
Some typical comments taken from the survey findings:
“I have been pressured to take admissions when due to lack of staff it has not been safe to do it.”
“On occasions, staffing levels are bordering on dangerous. We are in a Mid Staffs situation and I don’t believe we are the only ones.”
“Both my staff and I frequently have to work alone which is very unsafe.”
“I did not feel able to provide the type of care I would have liked to the patients. It felt more like a conveyor belt. No compassion, little dignity, I left at the end of my shift feeling distraught and that perhaps I have made a huge mistake training as a registered nurse.”
“My department is running at VERY UNSAFE levels due to inadequate staffing.”
“I am the only qualified nurse on a 13 hour shift, so I don’t get a break during these shifts. You get tired. It’s unsafe.”
“Some shifts are now 100% bank staff.”
“We have patients that need to be monitored closely following procedures or during therapy, with many needing to be checked on an hourly basis. That cannot be done when there is a ratio of one nurse to 11 patients.
“I felt I was being bullied to take extra patients from A&E.”