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Unsafe in our ICU: more than 200 nursing staff call on trust to take action

Critical care staff prompt RCN’s written appeal over nurse-patient ratios and burnout
Entrance to Royal Free Hospital in London, where ICU staff have complained about staffing and burnout

Critical care staff at Royal Free London trust prompt letter from RCN appealing for return to one-to-one care and action to prevent staff burnout

Hundreds of critical care nursing staff at one trust have voiced concerns about staffing levels and burnout.

RCN London sent a letter on behalf of 236 staff to the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust saying nurse to patient ratios in the intensive care unit (ICU) were unsafe during the pandemic.

Concerns about patient safety and staff well-being

The letter, seen by Nursing Standard, describes instances where ICU staff had resigned or reduced their hours and how this affected staff well-being and patient safety. It states staffs concerns had already been raised, but claims the

Critical care staff at Royal Free London trust prompt letter from RCN appealing for return to one-to-one care and action to prevent staff burnout

Entrance to Royal Free Hospital in London, where staff have complained about staffing and burnout
Picture: Alamy

Hundreds of critical care nursing staff at one trust have voiced concerns about staffing levels and burnout.

RCN London sent a letter on behalf of 236 staff to the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust saying nurse to patient ratios in the intensive care unit (ICU) were unsafe during the pandemic.

Concerns about patient safety and staff well-being

The letter, seen by Nursing Standard, describes instances where ICU staff had resigned or reduced their hours and how this affected staff well-being and patient safety. It states staff’s concerns had already been raised, but claims the hospital did not do enough to escalate or respond.

‘Throughout the year, we have listened and acted on feedback to improve the experience of coming to work’

Royal Free London trust spokesperson

RCN representatives and nursing staff met managers on 24 March to discuss well-being and staffing levels. The trust said it is working to address the concerns.

RCN regional director for London Lisa Elliott said: ‘The trust must act in good faith and not just listen to the concerns but put in place tangible actions that directly address worries over staffing levels, well-being and safety.’

The letter calls on the trust to:

  • Achieve and maintain the one to one nurse-to-patient ratio in ICUs to ensure patient safety and care quality.
  • Introduce a plan to improve recruitment and retention to minimise staff burnout.
  • Introduce a shift pattern of 13 rather than 14 shifts per month.

The support services already in place at trust

A trust spokesperson said: ‘Throughout the year we have listened and acted on feedback to improve the experience of coming to work and have put in place a range of support including access to listening services, helplines, a dedicated ICU psychologist and practical support such as food delivery and free accommodation.’

According to the 2020 NHS staff survey, thousands more nurses were affected by work-related stress than in 2019, as staff dealt with the impact of the pandemic.


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