Safe NHS staffing levels ‘worsen over past year’

Seven in ten nurses have considered leaving their role in the past year, according to a survey. Picture: Getty

Seven in ten nurses have considered leaving their role in the past year, according to a survey. Picture: Getty

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Safe staffing levels across the NHS have worsened significantly in the last year, Unison has revealed.

The trade union found almost two-thirds of nurses, 62 per cent, felt there were inadequate numbers of staff on wards across the UK to ensure safe, dignified and compassionate care. This was up from 45 per cent the previous year.

Increasing demands on the NHS show no sign of letting up

Christina McAnea

Unison’s UK-wide annual survey of nursing professionals also found seven in ten nurses had considered leaving their role at least once in the last 12 month as a result,

Releasing the results of the study today, at the start of its annual health conference, Unison leaders warned that 72 per cent of nurses are worried staffing levels will worsen in the next year and as a result patient care and safety will suffer. The union’s head of health Christina ­McAnea said: “Health workers are being run ragged, trying to provide safe, compassionate care to all their patients, but are struggling because there are quite simply too few of them to go around. It’s no wonder so many are seriously considering leaving the NHS.

“Increasing demands on the NHS show no sign of letting up, and despite all ministers’ talk of protecting the NHS, the desperate situation painted here by health professionals across the UK looks set to continue.”

The union has called on the UK governments to introduce minimum nurse to patient ratios to relieve the pressure on “overworked and overstressed” NHS staff and to improve the quality of patients’ hospital experiences.

The study also highlighted how 56 per cent of nurses say they have looked after eight or more patients – the level at which research suggests harm can occur – at least once.

This was compared with 42 per cent in the 2015 survey, called Pushing the Call Button on Unsafe Staffing: Who Will Come to our Aid?

Nurses who worked on nightshifts were found to look after the most number of patients.

Six in ten nurses have also told how they now work through their breaks that day to make up for the lack of colleagues, and four in ten work more than their contracted hours.

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