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Nurses warn of dangerously understaffed wards

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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The Nursing Times has reported that more than a half of nurses believe their ward or unit is dangerously understaffed.

Last week, the Nursing Times conducted an online poll of nearly 600 of its readers on issues such as staffing, patient safety and NHS culture. Of the 600 nurses who responded to the poll, 57% described their ward or unit as sometimes or always ‘dangerously understaffed.’

Shockingly, 76% of the nurses said that they had witnessed what they considered to be ‘poor’ care on their ward or unit over the past 12 months – of which nearly 30% said they had seen it happen regularly.

In addition, 73% of the respondents confirmed they had completed an incident form over the past 12 months because of an adverse incident, or the risk of one, had occurred. Worryingly, 76% of those respondents said that they had not received feedback or response after submitting the form.

An anonymous respondent said: “It is becoming more and more stressful for a nurse to nurse. Safety is always at the forefront of my mind but it is becoming increasingly difficult to ensure that all patients are kept safe while in my care.”

The Royal College of Nursing has said a ratio of eight or more patients per registered nurse is associated with patient care being regularly compromised.  The recent poll has revealed that 85% of nurses working on general medical wards said the average ratio was eight or more per registered nurse – of these just under half said the ratio was 10 or more.

Worried nurses voiced their opinions in the online poll. They admitted that cutting staff numbers meant there was more poor care and the only way to secure and reverse the deteriorating situation was to change the culture within the nursing profession.

Gail Adams, the Unison Head of Nursing said: “Sadly the Nursing Times survey chimes with Unison’s own findings last year. At the time less than 10% of nurses said they could deliver safe, dignified, compassionate care all of the time.”

“It is time for the government to listen to staff and reverse its dangerous cuts to nursing staff.”

By Sarah Fairclough