Public concern over nurse staffing revealed

A Royal College of Nursing public opinion survey has revealed that three out of four people in the UK think there aren’t enough nurses to care safely for patients in the NHS.

According to the findings, those surveyed thought employing more nurses should be the Government’s top priority for the NHS if extra funding for the service is found, with one in three feeding back that recruiting more nurses was the single most important area for NHS investment.

The poll of 1,600 UK adults, carried out by YouGov, found 74 per cent were concerned about staffing levels, supporting ‘dangerous’ figures which show that one in nine posts is vacant.

Nursing on the Brink, a newly released report by the RCN, shines a light on just how badly staff shortages in the NHS are affecting both safe patient care and the mental and physical health of nurses themselves. The report discovers six recurring themes: patient care not carried out through lack of time; not enough time to support families and carers; too much time spent on non-nursing duties; concern about the skill mix of nursing staff; concerns about the mental and physical health of nursing staff; and concerns about staffing levels not being addressed.

Janet Davies, chief executive of the RCN, told the RCN Congress: “The reason we have so many vacancies is because of short-sighted cost-cutting in past years and ineffective workforce planning based on affordability rather than the real needs of our population. We warned this would happen, but were called scaremongers. This situation results from a failure of politicians and policymakers - with an inability to recognise the value of nursing, an unwillingness to listen to those who are working in the service, and a lack of political will to address it.

“The current shortages are not only dangerous but a vicious circle too. Poor staffing levels are the number one reason for working-age nurses leaving the NMC register. Good nurses do not want to do a bad job. We must stop this.”

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