Nurses call for urgent action over 'unsafe' staffing shortages

Nurses have called for urgent action to address “unsafe” staffing shortages in Scotland as a new report lays bare challenges across the UK.

A survey by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) found almost nine in 10 nurses in Scotland (86 per cent) said staffing levels on their last shift were not sufficient to meet the needs of patients safely and effectively.

Nearly 70 per cent said patient care was compromised as a result.

The RCN’s general secretary and chief executive, Pat Cullen, is set to deliver a keynote address to more than 2,000 nurses at the college’s annual conference in Glasgow today.

Nursing leaders have sounded the alarm over staff shortages

She will say the findings lay bare “the state of health and care services across the UK”.

She will add: “Don’t ever think that it is normal to not have enough staff to meet the needs of patients. It is not.

"Today, members are letting the full truth be known – nursing is saying loud and clear that enough is enough. If there was ever a time to break this cycle – it is now.

“It is your professional duty to be concerned about unsafe staffing and we have your back.

"Twenty-five thousand registered nurses left last year – a sharp rise on the year before, at the very moment we cannot afford to lose a single individual.”

Ms Cullen will argue nurses are being “driven out by the current way of working – the shortage of staff and too often the poor culture”.

She will say: “To those from government listening to my words – we have had enough. The patients and those we care for have had enough.

“We’re tired, fed up, demoralised and some of us are leaving the profession because we have lost hope. Do something about it – we are not going away.”

More than 2,300 nursing staff from across Scotland’s health and care services responded to the RCN’s survey in March.

It found less than a quarter of shifts (23 per cent) had the planned number of registered nurses.

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie suggested “neglect of our NHS” has been the root cause of a crisis in the health service.

Ms Baillie said: "Staff are overworked, underpaid, and safe staffing legislation, passed unanimously by the parliament in 2019, has still not been implemented.

“If action is not taken now to support nursing staff and deliver safe staffing levels then further lives will be risked."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Staff are working around the clock because the Scottish Government’s botched workforce planning has left so many departments dreadfully short. The NHS is being overwhelmed."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Growing our workforce is crucial and that’s why we have steadily increased places on undergraduate nursing and midwifery courses over 10 consecutive years – doubling the number of new intake students in the last decade.

“We have recruited more than 1,000 additional healthcare support staff and almost 200 registered nurses from overseas to help address the unprecedented challenges facing the NHS.

“The Scottish Government remains committed to supporting NHS staff, and this year we have made £12 million available to support workforce wellbeing. We will continue to engage with our staff to ensure they get the necessary support they need.”

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