Off-duty nurses urged to report for work amid staffing crisis
Major NHS trust issues urgent appeal for available registered and unregistered nursing staff to take shifts as it struggles to manage ‘extreme pressure’
A hospital trust has issued an urgent appeal for off-duty nursing staff to help in its ‘exceptionally busy’ emergency department, prompting warnings of systemic failures in the health service from the RCN.
Belfast Health and Social Care Trust put out the emergency appeal on social media on 30 October, calling for any available registered or unregistered nursing staff to take on extra shifts.
One trust tweet said teams are under extreme pressure as patients numbers rise, while another urged the public only to only attend the emergency department if their condition was urgent and needed immediate attention.
The trust has faced persistent nursing shortages, and has issued similar appeals for off-duty nurses to help in the past.
Nurses’ well-being is feeling the impact of pressures on the health system
RCN Northern Ireland director Rita Devlin said: ‘Nurses have significant concerns over patient safety, including overcrowding, excessive numbers of patients waiting in corridors and awaiting admission. All of this has an impact on the physical and mental well-being of nurses.’
Last year a patient died on a trolley while waiting for care at the trust’s Royal Victoria Hospital. And in July this year, nurse Kieran McCormack described how patients were being treated in packed corridors when he took his 92-year-old grandmother to the hospital’s emergency department. She waited 14 hours for care.
‘The levels of nursing vacancies are not helped by the fact nurses in Northern Ireland are currently the worst-paid in the UK’
Rita Devlin, director, RCN Northern Ireland
Inspectors from the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority in Northern Ireland flagged significant concerns about staff burnout, overcrowding and patient safety after an unannounced inspection of the Royal Victoria last winter.
While nursing vacancies in Northern Ireland have decreased, there are still more than a thousand vacant posts in the health service there.
Latest Department of Health data show there were 1,637 nursing vacancies on 30 June this year, making up almost a quarter (23%) of all health and social care vacancies. This had fallen from 1,961 at the same time last year.
Nurse pay in Northern’s Ireland NHS lags behind the rest of the UK
Ms Devlin called for urgent transformation in the health service, adding: ‘The levels of nursing vacancies are not helped by the fact nurses in Northern Ireland are currently the worst-paid in the UK. This makes it difficult to recruit and retain the nurses we need.
‘There is no doubt patients and healthcare staff in Northern Ireland are suffering.’
Nurses in Northern Ireland are the only ones in the NHS still awaiting a pay deal for 2023-24, but the Department of Health said its £732 million funding shortfall, makes a pay award to nurses and others impossible.
The trust has been contacted for comment.
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