COVID-19: ‘critical care nurse numbers can’t keep pace with boost in supply of ICU beds’

ICU staff under pressure from intense workload, says critical care nurse leader

Picture: SPL

There are not enough nurses for the extra critical care beds promised by the government in response to COVID-19, the British Association of Critical Care Nurses (BACCN) chair said.

There are 4,123 adult intensive care unit (ICU) beds in England, and health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has pledged to introduce 5,000 more.

But Nicki Credland told Nursing Standard: ‘We are not going to achieve [the increase in critical care nurse numbers needed] by next week, next month or next year.’

Pressure of supporting nurse colleagues less familiar with ICU

Nicki Credland

Ms Credland, a senior nurse academic at the University of Hull, is concerned too at pressure the potential deployment of nurses from elsewhere in the system will place on ICU nurses.

‘You can imagine if you are the qualified intensive care nurse looking after a patient one-to-one; you have then got to support staff who are not qualified in critical care. That increases your stress levels,’ she said.

Long shifts wearing PPE take a heavy toll on nurses

Ms Credland added that nurses have told her they feel hot and exhausted after 30 minutes of wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).

‘They are desperately in need of a drink. They are trying to do an entire shift in PPE and it’s just impossible to do.’

She said it is important that staff take breaks and hydrate, warning: ‘Nurses are going to get stressed by this. They are going to get tired and as soon as that happens nurses are going to go off sick and that exacerbates the whole problem.’

An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘It’s important to remember that as well as our critical care beds we have five world-leading, highly specialised units and 19 trusts able to step up additional specialist capacity.’

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