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NHS patient safety: why nurse walked out on her 30-year career

Grossly understaffed night shift was the final straw for experienced nurse, who not only quit her job straight afterwards, but surrendered her registration too
Nurses Julie Lamberth and her sister publicise RCN pay and staffing campaign

Grossly understaffed night shift was the final straw for experienced nurse, who not only quit her job straight afterwards, but surrendered her NMC registration too

A nurse walked away from her 30-year career after a ‘final-straw’ night shift when she was expected to care for 19 acute patients by herself.

The nurse not only quit her job at a Scottish hospital, but also resigned from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register immediately her shift ended on November 30.

Fear of failing patients

The nurse, who did not want to be named, is the twin sister of RCN Scotland board chair Julie Lamberth . Ms Lamberth, a maternity theatre

Grossly understaffed night shift was the final straw for experienced nurse, who not only quit her job straight afterwards, but surrendered her NMC registration too

Nurses Julie Lamberth and her sister publicise RCN pay and staffing campaign
Campaigning in tandem: Julie Lamberth, right, with her twin sister

A nurse walked away from her 30-year career after a ‘final-straw’ night shift when she was expected to care for 19 acute patients by herself.

The nurse not only quit her job at a Scottish hospital, but also resigned from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register immediately her shift ended on November 30.

Fear of failing patients

The nurse, who did not want to be named, is the twin sister of RCN Scotland board chair Julie Lamberth. Ms Lamberth, a maternity theatre nurse, told Nursing Standard how her sister couldn’t bear to work another day feeling she was failing her patients.

‘I was gutted for her. She phoned me in tears and said she can’t do it anymore. She wants to give the best care she can, but feels like she hasn’t done enough for her patients at the end of each shift,’ she said.

‘To end 30 years in nursing in this way is so sad, but I understand. How are you meant to do observations, do paperwork and give controlled drugs for 19 patients? It’s an injustice.’

Safe staffing law

Ms Lamberth warned that her sister would not be the last nurse to leave if short-staffing issues aren’t addressed.

In 2019, Scotland became the part of the UK to set out safe staffing requirements in law, but the Health and Care (Staffing) Act’s implementation stalled in the pandemic. The law – now due to be enacted by April 2024 – will require ministers to publish annual safe staffing reports, with the aim of improving accountability for staffing in health and social care.

Nurses show their solidarity

Following her twin’s resignation Ms Lamberth tweeted: ‘My twin is an excellent nurse, or was – the ongoing staffing crisis has finally broke her – one nurse to 19 patients in an acute hospital ward. How can you possibly provide safe and effective care?’

RCN England director Patrica Marquis tweeted in response: ‘How sad to read. Terrible for nursing, terrible for patients.’

Nurse Gena Lewis added: ‘Such a shame, we must keep fighting for better pay and conditions to ensure another nurse is not “broke”. We are loud and proud and need to get back to doing our job safely. After all, it’s what we trained for.’

RCN members in Scotland’s NHS are currently voting on their government’s ‘best and final’ pay offer of around 8%. Colleagues in the rest of the UK plan to strike for the first time in the RCN’s history next week.


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