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‘Care is compromised’, one in seven NHS staff tell snapshot survey

Almost half of respondents said there were too few staff on shift to ensure safe care

Almost half of respondents said there were too few staff on shift to ensure safe care


Picture: Alamy

A nurse failing to provide proper care to a dying patient due to short staffing is one of the experiences revealed in a major NHS survey.

The anonymous respondent said they were unable to give the attention they wished to because there were two nurses instead of four to care for 26 patients.

More than 18,000 healthcare staff across the UK, including 3,955 nurses, responded to the snapshot 24-hour survey taken on 18 September 2018 by Unison.

Working beyond their rostered hours

Almost half of all those who responded said there were not enough staff on their shift to ensure patients were treated safely and with compassion, while 48% of nurse and midwife respondents reported working longer than their rostered hours.

Nearly half of all respondents (47%) said their service relied on bank staff on the day of the survey, mainly to fill nursing roles.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • One in seven respondents (14%) rated the quality of care provided as compromised, and one in six (16%) said patient safety was compromised on the day of the survey.
  • Three in five staff in acute inpatient departments (59%; 1,381 out of 2,345) said staffing was insufficient. It was also a serious issue for those in mental health (45%; 996 of 2,203), primary care (41%; 777 of 1,893) and community health (36%; 642 of 1,794).
  • Nearly one in six (16%) were subjected to violence, aggression and/or verbal abuse during their shift.

RCN acting general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: 'Politicians cannot ignore this warning from thousands of NHS professionals. Nursing staff feel pushed to the brink but it is patients who pay a high price when we can't provide the care they need.


Unison head of health Sara Gorton.
Picture: Barney Newman

Highlights urgent need for more nurses

She added: ‘This is a further reminder of the urgent need to bring tens of thousands more people into nursing with real investment, and agree a new law in England on safe staffing levels.’

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: ‘These are long-term, systemic factors not being addressed properly. The government must give the system the funding needed to tackle these issues.'

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said it was increasing training places for nurses, doctors and midwives by 25% and providing staff with a 'significant pay rise' to help deliver the safest care.

A workforce plan would be published later this year as part of the NHS Long Term Plan, the spokesperson added.


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