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Staff exodus from ICU that treated Boris Johnson ‘should ring alarm bells in government’

Critical care staff talk of patient safety fears and corrosive impact of understaffing
Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust in London, where more than 100 ICU resigned in a seven-month period

Critical care staff talk of patient safety fears and impact of understaffing at Guy’s and St Thomas’ trust in London

More than 100 intensive care nurses at the trust where prime minister Boris Johnson was treated for COVID-19 quit in a seven-month period, a union revealed.

The figure, gleaned by Unite in a member survey at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London, is borne out by the trust, which confirmed 118 nurses had left since January this year. However, the trust added 97 nurses had joined in that time and a further 30 are at the pre-employment check stage.

Findings of critical care staff survey at Guy’s and St Thomas’ trust

Unite said its survey revealed

Critical care staff talk of patient safety fears and impact of understaffing at Guy’s and St Thomas’ trust in London

Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust in London, where more than 100 ICU resigned in a seven-month period
Picture: Alamy

More than 100 intensive care nurses at the trust where prime minister Boris Johnson was treated for COVID-19 quit in a seven-month period, a union revealed.

The figure, gleaned by Unite in a member survey at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London, is borne out by the trust, which confirmed 118 nurses had left since January this year. However, the trust added 97 nurses had joined in that time and a further 30 are at the pre-employment check stage.

Findings of critical care staff survey at Guy’s and St Thomas’ trust

Unite said its survey revealed ‘plummeting morale’ and concerns about patient safety resulting from staff shortages.

The survey of 188 critical care staff, including nurses, carried out in the summer, found:

  • 93% (174) reported understaffing in their unit every shift.
  • 100% reported staff well-being was affected by understaffing.
  • 98% (184) said they felt understaffing made their unit unsafe.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: ‘These results are shocking and very distressing for our NHS members.

‘They are total professionals but these chronic staff shortages mean they struggle to give the care they are dedicated to, so morale plummets. Alarm bells have to start ringing across government and the health service.’

Lack of respect for the profession

Boris Johnson was admitted with COVID-19 to critical care at St Thomas’ Hospital in April 2020 after his condition deteriorated.

‘We recognise the pressure the current demand for services places on staff’

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust spokesperson

In May this year, Jenny McGee, one of two nurses personally thanked by the prime minister for her care while he was in ICU, resigned. She cited the government’s suggestion of a 1% pay rise offer for nurses in England as the reason, accusing ministers of showing a lack of respect for the profession.

Investment in recruitment and staff well-being

A spokesperson for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust said patient safety and staff well-being were top priorities.

‘We recognise the pressure the current demand for services places on staff and are investing in recruiting more nurses, as well as continuing to provide extensive health and well-being support to our staff,’ the spokesperson added.

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