Nurses report they have 'never felt pressure like this'
Three fifths of nurses are overworked and cannot provide the level of service they feel patients should be getting, according to a survey by the Royal College of Nursing (Scotland).
“The most upsetting and stressful part of my job is being unable to give good patient care due to poor staffing levels … and unfortunately it has become ‘normal’ to work under this constant stress,” reports one band five staff nurse quoted in the survey. “Never have I felt pressure like this in my career and have never felt so undervalued.”
There are currently 4,000 posts unfilled in Scottish nursing and midwifery, a record high number of vacancies.
The survey also revealed that seven in 10 nurses report experiencing verbal abuse by patients, service users or relatives, while more than half of nurses work beyond their contracted hours on every shift or several times every week.
Some 37 per cent had experienced bullying.
More than 1,900 RCN members in Scotland responded to the online survey, which was distributed to a sample of members in January 2019.
Theresa Fyffe, director of the RCN Scotland, said that although it had become common to hear of increased demand and workforce pressures in the NHS, this must not be accepted as the status quo.
She said: “Across both acute and community settings, there are simply too few nursing staff and working in such a depleted workforce is like having an arm and a leg tied behind your back.
“Nursing staff really need the long-anticipated Integrated Workforce Plan to match Scottish Government’s stated aspirations for the health and care workforce, but it’s now more than 12 months overdue.”
She added: “At its best, nursing gives people a sense of identity, pride, achievement and huge fulfilment – almost three quarters of respondents view nursing as a rewarding career. But it’s clear that nurses and health care support workers are feeling overworked in under-resourced environments.
“It’s time to make staff wellbeing a major priority and the first step is to safeguard staff psychological health through the guidance and implementation for the safe staffing act.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs accused the SNP of driving the NHS into “a desperate state”.
He said: “Its workforce planning has been so shambolic that we’re seeing record levels of vacancies and wards across the country struggling for workers.
“That all means those nurses who remain have to pick up the slack, and it’s now taking its toll.
“The nationalists have been in sole charge of the NHS for more than 12 years, and have to take full responsibility for this disgraceful state of affairs.
"The decision by Nicola Sturgeon to cut the number of trainee nurse and midwife places in Scotland while she was health secretary has created a major shortage in nurses across Scotland.
“And all this simply piles more pressure on Jeane Freeman, who’s failed to make an impact on any of these issues.”
Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Monica Lennon said attacked “the incompetency and complacency of successive SNP Health Ministers who have failed to plan for the future”.
She said: “Staff are now bearing the brunt of 12 years of broken promises from the SNP.
“Despite promising things would get better, they have only got worse under Jeane Freeman and she should apologise to the patients and NHS staff she has let down.
“This is just the latest evidence that the NHS is just not a priority for SNP Ministers and that only Labour will put the health service first.”