RCN urges nurses to raise patient safety concerns during the winter crisis

As the NHS comes under increasing pressure, the RCN advises nurses to ensure they raise any concerns about patient safety as a matter of urgency.
Raise the alarm

The RCN has said nurses should raise any concerns about patient safety as a matter of urgency as the NHS comes under increasing pressure.

 Royal Surrey County Hospital, where patients were cared for in a gym due to operational pressures. Picture: Alamy

The advice comes as more than four in 10 hospitals in England declared a major alert in the first week of January, leading to warnings over patient safety.

Emergency departments overwhelmed

Some 66 out of 152 trusts issued operational pressure alerts as bed shortages intensified and emergency departments became overwhelmed.

Overall, NHS hospitals issued 226 serious alerts in six days, saying they were experiencing major pressures, according to the latest data from NHS England.

RCN head of employment relations Josie Irwin said nurses should always speak out and raise concerns.

‘If nurses are worried that something might lead to harm to patients – in the future or now – they should raise it now,’ she said.

‘This is also about protecting your registration as a nurse,’ Ms Irwin said, reminding nursing staff of their responsibilities under the Nursing and Midwifery Council code of conduct.

She added that RCN guidance for members about raising concerns in the workplace has just been updated and republished this week.

Hospital uses gym for patients

The NHS England data revealed there were 226 operational pressure alerts at either level three or four across the six days from 2-8 January, compared with 34 from 28 December to 2 January.

On 12 January, prime minister Theresa May said there had been a ‘small number’ of incidents of unacceptable practice in NHS trusts, while health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said there were problems in ‘one or two’ areas.

The Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford, which serves some of Mr Hunt’s constituents, confirmed it had been forced to put extra beds in a gym as it became overwhelmed with patients.

A statement said: ‘The hospital has been incredibly busy and as such, the decision was taken to use a gym space on one of our wards to provide additional temporary bed capacity.’

Patient safety alerts

Overall, 58 NHS trusts across the week reported they were at level three on at least one day, while a further eight reported level four at least once during the week – meaning patient safety was at risk.

In total, 25 trusts declared major alerts every day between 3 and 8 January.

The number of major alerts – previously called red and black alerts – is the highest of the winter.

On Thursday, senior managers from the NHS Confederation warned the NHS had reached ‘tipping point’ and it was time the government accepted that ‘limited investment’ has ‘consequences’.


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