Comment

Nurses shouldn't have to lie to patients about staff shortages

Hospital managers must take responsibility when staff shortages put extra pressure on front-line personnel, says Jane Bates

Hospital managers must take responsibility when staff shortages put extra pressure on front-line personnel, says Jane Bates


Image: iStock

I went to see a play recently where all the characters – and there were many – were played by two actors who were constantly changing costumes and personae. It became increasingly frenetic as the evening went on, and was very funny. 

But less amusing was a recent news story about a trust in Essex whose chief executive has apparently instructed front-line personnel not to mention to patients that they are short-staffed. 

You can imagine the scenario – it would be even more farcical than my play. The nurse flies into the office in uniform and comes out seconds later in civvies with a stethoscope round her neck, taking on the doctor’s role. 

She then rushes behind a screen and emerges in housekeeping uniform, wielding a mop. A few seconds later she disappears into the linen room and materialises as a sprightly, straight-backed physio. Short-staffed? Us? Never.

Correct balance of skills

What I would say to those issuing these types of instructions is this: instead of pressurising your staff into play-acting (okay, lying) just admit to staff shortages and take responsibility. 

It is the same all over the NHS. To save money, managers have cut back on recruitment and conveniently ignored the need for the correct balance of skills to run services safely and effectively. 

They have put existing staff in invidious situations that have demoralised them and, in many cases, caused them to leave. And when things have gone wrong, it is seldom the management who are named, blamed and shamed, it is the front-line staff. 

Perhaps hospital managers should be regulated in the same way as doctors and nurses are, so they can be properly held accountable for their actions.


Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire 

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