Too many nurses in England are reaching ‘burnout or breaking point’, RCN warns

College responds to report revealing staff shortages and inadequate care 

College responds to report revealing staff shortages and inadequate care 

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Too many nurses are reaching ‘burnout or breaking point’, the RCN has warned, following a new report that highlights inadequate staffing and care across health services.

The latest annual report on the state of health and social care in England, from health watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC), states that staffing pressures are contributing to a ‘perfect storm’ for patients, particularly those using mental health and learning disability services.

Lack of access to adequate care in non-hospital settings

The report says patients are being pushed into inappropriate care settings such as emergency departments (EDs) because they cannot access the care they need outside of the hospital environment.

CQC inspectors also rated more than half of EDs in England as either inadequate or requiring improvement.

The report adds that:

  • 10% of inpatient services for people with learning disabilities and/or autism were rated inadequate, compared with 1% in 2018
  • 7% of child and adolescent mental health inpatient services were rated inadequate, compared with 3% in 2018
  • 8% of acute wards for adults and psychiatric intensive care units were rated inadequate, compared with 2% in 2018

Report highlights lack of skilled staff 

The CQC said too many people are being looked after by staff who lack the skills, training, experience or support from clinical staff to care for individuals with complex needs.

The findings reflect a national shortage of nurses in these areas of practice, with 8% fewer learning disability nurses registered in 2019 than in 2015, and 2% fewer mental health nurses in 2019 than in 2014.

Patients ‘paying the price’ for inadequate nurse numbers 

RCN England director Patricia Marquis said the report puts England’s nursing shortage ‘front and centre’ as the reason for inadequate care.

‘The CQC is painting a picture of too many nurses reaching burnout or breaking point, with patients paying the price,’ she added.

‘Now that their concern is on record, it leaves ministers with nowhere to turn – they must take immediate and firm action to address the 40,000 unfilled nurse jobs.’

Government says plans to reform social care are being developed

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said it would be setting out plans to reform social care ‘in due course’.

The spokesperson added: ‘We are working to reduce the number of people with learning disabilities and autism in mental health hospitals by improving specialist services and community crisis care, reducing avoidable admissions, and enabling shorter lengths of stay.’

Read the Care Quality Commission’s report

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