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Call for nurses to do cleaning on wards labelled 'disrespectful'

Hospital had wanted nurses to be released to help clean door handles and answer phones but is told to plan its workforce better
Luton and Dunstable University Hospital

Hospital had wanted nurses to be released to help clean door handles and answer phones but is told to plan its workforce better

Specialist nurses could be asked to take on cleaning duties at a Bedfordshire trust in a bid to mitigate staff shortages.

In a letter to staff last week, Luton and Dunstable University Hospital called for specialist nurses to be released for whole shifts to be counted towards the staffing numbers of a ward as the hospital struggles to keep up with demand.

If they were not able to be released from their duties they might be asked to undertake tasks including cleaning and tidying the sluice, cleaning high touch points such as door handles and answering phones,

Hospital had wanted nurses to be released to help clean door handles and answer phones but is told to plan its workforce better

Luton and Dunstable University Hospital. Picture: Alamy

Specialist nurses could be asked to take on cleaning duties at a Bedfordshire trust in a bid to mitigate staff shortages.

In a letter to staff last week, Luton and Dunstable University Hospital called for specialist nurses to be released for whole shifts to be counted towards the staffing numbers of a ward as the hospital struggles to keep up with demand.

If they were not able to be released from their duties they might be asked to undertake tasks including cleaning and tidying the sluice, cleaning high touch points such as door handles and answering phones, the letter states.

London South Bank University chair of healthcare and workforce modelling Alison Leary said the move shows ‘very little respect for nursing’.

‘We know one of the reasons people leave jobs is because their work is not valued. This kind of action will not help retention,’ she told Nursing Standard.

‘Specialist nurses are usually complex case holders and key to keeping people out of hospital. The assumption that they can simply drop their work and it will have no effect on patients or the organisation is a very risky one.’

Professor Leary said trusts need to plan workforces accordingly and should ensure they have enough cleaning and administrative staff to contribute to care quality.

Move comes as NHS buckles under its greatest ever workforce crisis

It comes as the NHS buckles under what has been labelled the greatest workforce crisis in its history. A cross-party report from the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee last week found severe staff shortages across the health sector with no clear strategy from the government on tackling the workforce crisis.

Just days earlier, Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Luton and Dunstable University Hospital, reported unprecedented demand for emergency care, urging people to only come to the emergency department in the case of an emergency.

A spokesperson for the trust said nurses have not yet undertaken cleaning tasks and would only be asked to do so ‘where every option had been exhausted’.

‘As an organisation we do appreciate and value the important contribution that our dedicated nursing workforce makes in delivering quality patient care,’ they said.

‘As a result of the pressures we are currently experiencing, a discussion took place with senior medical, nursing and management leads to consider how we might ensure our ward teams could be given additional help during some of the most challenging circumstances we have ever faced.

‘Fortunately the actions detailed have not been necessary, and would only ever be considered where every option had been exhausted and following a wider conversation with those affected.’


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