Patient safety red flags: make them seen in the election year

In the build-up to the UK’s next general election, daily safety breaches in the NHS need to be taken seriously, not waved away with empty pledges

 An illustration of a hand waving a large red flag in the air
Picture: iStock

What does the new year promise for nursing?

Probably some big things, and possibly even the stuff of your dreams, because 2024 will see the build-up to a general election.

Pledges aplenty predicted for the new year

Yes, it will soon be time for pledges for the NHS to rocket in line with waiting lists, and for endless politically driven success stories that you wouldn’t believe even if you saw them with your own eyes (just as you have not seen any real impact from those 50,000 extra nurses that the current government pledged ahead of the last election).

And so it will go on… but not beyond 28 January 2025, the date by which a general election legally has to take place.

Try not to get too down about all the electioneering, as this pre-ballot period does offer an opportunity – and not of the management-led kind to do more with less. It presents a platform for the NHS and health and care in general, as they consistently prove to be key battlegrounds for politicians who want to win votes.

There will be mistruths and exaggerated claims but – go figure – nurses enjoy far higher levels of public trust than politicians, with the two being polar opposites in the Ipsos public poll of trusted professions.

Raise the red flags and make sure they are seen

It’s time to raise those red flags for patient safety whenever possible. These all too familiar alarms include times when patients are being cared for in hospital corridors or even on floors, hooks are set up in waiting rooms to hold intravenous drips and registered nurses are being replaced with less-skilled staff.

Our feature lays bare the critical consequences of this broken system, which is putting patients at risk and devastating and demoralising staff. In the community nurses are grappling with huge caseloads, with one in ten health visitors providing care for more than 1,000 children.

These situations shouldn’t be part of ‘normal’ care – they should be never events. Politicians must be shown the red flags.

Flavia Munn is Nursing Standard editor