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RCN warns nine in ten largest NHS hospitals short of nurses

Nine in ten of England's 50 largest NHS hospital trusts are not staffed with nurses to the level planned by their own management. 
staff

Nine in ten of England's 50 largest NHS hospital trusts are not staffed with nurses to the level planned by their own management, the RCN says.

An analysis by the college confirms that hospitals are putting more unregistered support staff on shift to cope with the shortage of registered nurses.

Data released by the NHS shows that substitution is particularly prevalent on night shifts, when two-thirds of the largest hospital trusts put more healthcare assistants (HCAs) on the wards than planned.

Previous studies have shown that mortality rates rise significantly when the number of fully trained and registered nurses is reduced and the number of unskilled staff is increased.

Worse at night

The RCN analysis showed that 91% of the 50 largest

Nine in ten of England's 50 largest NHS hospital trusts are not staffed with nurses to the level planned by their own management, the RCN says. 

janet
Janet Davies says the government must redouble its efforts to train
and recruit more qualified nurses. Picture: Barney Newman

An analysis by the college confirms that hospitals are putting more unregistered support staff on shift to cope with the shortage of registered nurses. 

Data released by the NHS shows that substitution is particularly prevalent on night shifts, when two-thirds of the largest hospital trusts put more healthcare assistants (HCAs) on the wards than planned. 

Previous studies have shown that mortality rates rise significantly when the number of fully trained and registered nurses is reduced and the number of unskilled staff is increased.

Worse at night

The RCN analysis showed that 91% of the 50 largest trusts in England failed to have the number of registered nurses they had planned to have on wards during the day on 150 individual hospital sites. 

The figures follow recent research by the RCN highlighting 40,000 nurse vacancies across the NHS in England.

More than half of the largest hospitals (55%) brought more unregistered support staff onto the shifts. The over-reliance on unregistered support staff is worse at night, with two thirds (67%) of hospitals increasing numbers on night shifts compared with what they planned due to the shortage of registered nurses. 

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: 'These startling figures show that despite the government’s rhetoric our largest hospitals still do not have enough nurses, and that is putting patients at risk.'

On the cheap

'They are resorting to filling wards with unregistered HCAs, especially at night, just to cope with the shortage.

'Patients can pay the very highest price when the government encourages ‘nursing on the cheap’. It is unfair on the HCA too – they should not be left in a situation they have not been trained to handle. Nurses have degrees and expert training, and to be blunt the evidence shows patients stand a better chance of survival and recovery when there are more of them on the ward.

'In light of these figures the government must redouble its efforts to train and recruit more qualified nurses and stop haemorrhaging the experienced ones who are fed up, undervalued and burning out fast.'

Responding to the figures, a Department of Health spokesperson told the Sunday Times: 'Just this month we announced an extra 10,000 places for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals by 2020, and there are over 12,500 more nurses on our wards since 2010.'


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