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RCN calls on government to ensure safe staffing levels for nurses this winter

Concerns over staff shortages as nurses face ‘intolerable pressure’ of COVID-19 second wave
Staffing crisis

Concerns over staff shortages as nurses face intolerable pressure of COVID-19 second wave

The RCN has called on the government to ensure nurses can work safely this winter amid grave concerns about staffing shortages.

Twin challenges of COVID-19 and winter caseload will put intolerable pressure on nurses

Gaps in the workforce were putting enormous strain on nursing teams and placing intolerable pressure on senior nursing leaders as the NHS faces the twin challenges of winter and COVID-19, the RCN said.

The college also warned that nurses could burn out and patient safety could be compromised if local staffing plans failed to consider the numbers of registered nurses available to deliver safe care.

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Concerns over staff shortages as nurses face ‘intolerable pressure’ of COVID-19 second wave

COVID ward
Picture: PA

The RCN has called on the government to ensure nurses can work safely this winter amid grave concerns about staffing shortages.

Twin challenges of COVID-19 and winter caseload will put ‘intolerable pressure’ on nurses

Gaps in the workforce were putting enormous strain on nursing teams and placing intolerable pressure on senior nursing leaders as the NHS faces the twin challenges of winter and COVID-19, the RCN said.

The college also warned that nurses could burn out and patient safety could be compromised if local staffing plans failed to consider the numbers of registered nurses available to deliver safe care.

RCN England director Mike Adam
Mike Adams

RCN England director Mike Adams said front-line nursing teams were already overstretched as the NHS moved into the highest level of emergency preparation.

‘We already know that front-line nurses in hospitals, communities and care homes are under huge strain, and we’re hearing that in some hospitals they are becoming increasingly thinly spread on the ground, as staff become unwell or have to isolate at the same time as demand on services continues to increase,’ he said.

Nurses should be prepared to raise concerns about staffing levels, says RCN

‘The government says nurses have been given extra training to provide more critical care staff to treat COVID-19 patients but there simply aren’t enough to go round.’

He added that nursing staff at all levels must be supported to raise concerns about staffing levels and patient safety, with those concerns acted on properly.

‘It is essential that learning is applied to planning for this winter, including what services can be delivered safely with the workforce available,’ he said.

There are currently about 40,000 registered nursing vacancies in England alone.

Exisiting staff vacancies exacerbate the issue

The RCN said these shortages were being felt across all areas of nursing, including critical care, cancer services and community nursing, and sickness absence due to COVID-19 would only exacerbate this.

It called on the government to ensure decisions and planning for this winter were based on actual nursing numbers and a realistic assessment of what those nurses could safely provide.

The Department for Health and Social Care was contacted for a response.


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