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Critical care: ‘There aren’t enough ICU nurses for UK’s 30,000 ventilators’

COVID-19 second wave – number of ventilators not matched by critical care nurse numbers, says nurse leader
A nurse treats a patient in an ICU. Picture: PA

BACCN chair says more ICU nurses needed, as she calls for greater clarity on social distancing

More nurses are needed to operate the number of ventilators now available, a critical care nurses leader said.

The government has increased the total number of ventilators available in the UK to 30,000 from 7,400 in March.

However, British Association of Critical Care Nurses (BACCN) chair Nicki Credland told Nursing Standard: There is no point having a ventilator if you dont have somebody to look after it.

Fewer ICU nurses available than in March

Nicki Credland, chair of the British Association of Critical Care Nurses

Early in the pandemic, Ms Credland set out in Nursing Standard

BACCN chair says more ICU nurses needed, as she calls for greater clarity on social distancing


Many ICU nurses are off sick with ‘significant psychological trauma’, according to
critical care nurses’ leader Nicki Credland  Picture: PA

More nurses are needed to operate the number of ventilators now available, a critical care nurses’ leader said. 

The government has increased the total number of ventilators available in the UK to 30,000 from 7,400 in March.

However, British Association of Critical Care Nurses (BACCN) chair Nicki Credland told Nursing Standard: ‘There is no point having a ventilator if you don’t have somebody to look after it’.

Fewer ICU nurses available than in March

Nicki Credland
Nicki Credland, chair of the British
Association of Critical Care Nurses

Early in the pandemic, Ms Credland set out in Nursing Standard her concerns about inadequate intensive care unit (ICU) nurse numbers. Now, she believes the situation could be even worse.

She said: ‘We are seeing lots of cases of ICU and other nurses going off sick with significant psychological trauma because of what they’ve done and seen. That depletes the workforce even further.’

Ms Credland added that non-ICU nurses were unlikely to be redeployed to critical care during a second surge in demand, because wider NHS services were expected to continue running normally.

Follow social distancing rules to keep people out of hospital

Ms Credland said the government needs to be clear with its messaging to the public about social distancing.

‘The best thing we can do is to stop the spread of the virus as much as we possibly can.

‘We can't do anything about getting more nurses [immediately] but we can do more about people not getting COVID-19 in the first place and ending up in ICU.’

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the increase in ventilator capacity means hospitals are prepared for future need.

A spokesperson would not be drawn on Ms Credland's comments about clarity of social distancing rules, but added: ‘We are on our way to delivering 50,000 more nurses by the end of this parliament.’


Further reading

Investigation into how government increased the number of ventilators available to the NHS in response to COVID-19


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