Staffing danger on wards, say nurses

Wards dangerously understaffed, say nurses in survey

Patient to nurse ratios on hospital wards came under the spotlight inside the survey

More than 1/2 nurses believe their NHS ward or unit is dangerously understaffed, consistent with a survey.

The Nursing Times conducted an internet poll of nearly 600 of its readers on issues which includes staffing, patient safety and NHS culture.

Three-quarters had witnessed what they considered “poor” care during the last one year, the survey found.

The government said it had increased staffing and hundreds of latest nurses were still being taken on by the NHS.

‘Increasingly difficult’

The survey comes in advance of a public inquiry report into care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.

More than 57% of these asked within the survey described their ward or unit as sometimes or always “dangerously understaffed”.

Of those that had witnessed poor care, nearly 30% said they’d seen it happen regularly.

Some 85% of these who worked on general wards said the patient to nurse ratio was eight or more to 1, and 44% said the ratio was 10 or more to 1.

Howard Catton, head of policy on the Royal College of Nursing, told the BBC the ratio level in lots of hospitals was unacceptable.

“We must always have clear national guidance on what safe staffing levels are. One registered nurse to 8 patients is stepping into very risky territory, it may be around one in five.

“We’ve got ratios for our children in nurseries…why can’t we’ve them for our patients in hospitals?

“Cutting nurses may have a negative impact at the quality of care that’s provided and inside the worse case scenario yes it could result in untimely deaths.”

Unison head of nursing Gail Adams told the Nursing Times the findings of the survey echoed their very own research at the issue, finished in 2012.

“On the time not up to 10% of nurses said they may deliver safe, dignified, compassionate care all the time.”

Low morale

Joyce Robins, co-director of Patient Concern, told BBC Radio 5 Live nurses felt they might not keep their patients safe because there have been not enough staff.

“The quantity of labor they’re expected to do goes up on a regular basis but staffing levels don’t rise,” she said.

“You hear a lot of these stories that nurses don’t care anymore but really it’s that nurses can’t care because they do not have time because there aren’t enough of them.”

Also chatting with Radio Five Live Jenni Middleton, editor of the Nursing Times, said morale was very low amongst nurses.

“If you’ve gone into that job to care and to see after people and not to manage to do this is heartbreaking and intensely very stressful since you feel you’re incapable of doing what you have been trained to do since you do not have the resources to back you up.”

Care standards

Prime Minister David Cameron has acknowledged the govt still has some distance to visit raise standards around the NHS.

Mr Cameron encouraged the postulate of nurses checking on patients every hour, as portion of a package of nursing measures in January.

Some 31% of nurses on general wards within the survey said they weren’t accustomed to this being introduced where they worked.

The issue of care standards will come to the fore again when the Francis report into the Mid Staffs Trust is published on Wednesday.

Inquiry chairman Robert Francis QC will present the overall report back to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, before the minister makes a Commons statement.

The £13m inquiry was establish after a Healthcare Commission report in 2009 found “appalling standards” of care.

In response to the survey, the govt said there have been more clinical staff working within the NHS now than when it came to power in May 2010.

About 2,500 new nurses got to work inside the NHS in October 2012 alone, it added.