Shortage Of NHS Nurses Harming Patient Care

The Royal College Of Nursing Has Claimed A Fall In The Number Of Senior Nurses Is Putting The NHS At Risk.

13.03.2014

The loss of 4,000 senior nursing posts since 2010 has put patients at risk of harm, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

Ward sisters, community matrons and specialist nurses have seen the number of roles they can fill across the NHS fall, with many blaming the government's austerity drive as the primary reason for this.

The RCN is opposed to the coalition's budget cuts and claims many senior nurses are being forced to move down to lower pay grades in order to keep their jobs, something that is pushing some into private practice.

Executives from the institution argue this is a "short-term" measure that devalues the role that nurses play in the UK, with many workers forced to work abroad where skills are in high demand.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: "Nurses have been telling us for some time that workforce reorganisations are disproportionately targeted at more senior staff with key specialist or leadership roles. This is something which has a knock-on effect on all staff, and most importantly on patient care."

However, the Department of Health has defended its cuts, arguing that it is doing all it can to improve the numbers of senior nurses across the UK.

Health minister Dr Dan Poulter told the BBC that the coalition is investing £40 million in leadership training for ward sisters, midwives and senior nurses in order to elevate them to more advanced positions.

Dean Royles, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation, said the figures from the RCN were too simplistic and did not take a number of other factors into account.

"Cash is flat, demand is rising, the way we care for people is changing and other professions [are becoming more important]," he explained.

Nurses have regularly complained they are being asked to do much of the work of doctors because of staff shortages, but are not paid or trained to carry this out.

Expert Opinion
We are concerned by the claims by The Royal College Of Nursing, as patient safety must come first as the public puts their trust in the resources we have in the NHS.

“We see many cases where issues have arisen due to hospitals not being able to cope with staff shortages which can lead to mistakes and substandard care because the staff on duty are stretched too thinly. Putting patients at risk of harm due to staffing levels is simply not an acceptable service.

“Hopefully The RCN’s issues are considered and any concerns addressed so the NHS can continue to provide fantastic health care to patients and make sure that nurses are valued and not being significantly over worked in the process.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner