Nursing staff levels may be unsafe, warns RCN

Written by Tom Freeman on 29 September 2017 in News

Nurses working extra shifts to prevent risks to patients, Royal College of Nursing survey reveals

NHS Scotland nurses - Scottish Government

Nurses in Scotland have urged the Scottish Government and health boards to review staff levels “urgently” or risk patient safety.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have said patient care in Scotland is “untenable” with current workforce pressures.

The latest member survey by the RCN across the UK has revealed concerns about staffing levels, which nurses say is leaving patients lying in pain while they wait for medication and care.


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Over half of respondents in Scotland said they did not have enough time to adequately care for patients, with 61 reporting they worked extra time at the end of their shift.

Speaking to Holyrood recently, two nurses described the situation in wards as “firefighting” while a “degree of ill-feeling” had been building up between permanent and agency or bank staff brought in to fill gaps.

“I think it would take an honesty to admit to how things really are, and no one seems prepared to do that,” one told Holyrood. “Management consultants are not nurses.”

Theresa Fyffe, Director of the RCN in Scotland, said nurses had used the survey to “blow the whistle” on the situation.

“Decision makers cannot ignore the voice of nursing staff who say that there are not enough of them to provide safe, effective, high quality care any longer,” she said.

“The Scottish Government has the opportunity with its proposed safe staffing legislation to address these challenges and to safeguard nursing in Scotland for generations to come. The RCN will work tirelessly to seek to ensure that legislation delivers real improvement for people who need care, and for those providing it.”

In July, Audit Scotland reported that although spending on staff was at an all-time high, workforce planning was not taking the increase in demand on hospitals into account.

Nursing regulator the Nursing and Midwifery Council also warned earlier this year that more people were leaving the nursing profession than joining it.

Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “The link between safe and sustainable staffing levels and high quality care is well established.

“Scotland has led the UK in the development of nursing and midwifery workload and workforce planning tools, ensuring we have the right number of staff, with the right skills, in place.”

Over 3,000 RCN members responded to the survey in Scotland.

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