Hospital staff shortages causing dangerous “nursing on the cheap”

Owl says: 20 people in a hospital ward being looked after by, say, 4 staff – 1 member if staff to 5 people, 3 shifts a day = 12 nursing staff. That’s with FULL staffing (plus, of course, other staff such as doctors, physios, etc). 20 people under their eagle eyes, at least one of them professionally qualified, assessing their needs, watching for deterioration, alert for emergencies.

If all those 20 people are being nursed at home – how would those same 12 staff care for the same 20 people in a dispersed rural geographical area? Which ones would get care from the qualified nurse, which ones the “cheap” alternative? No more staff – because already there is a shortage. And using their own cars (if they drive and can afford one) to get between them all, summer tourist season and winter snow.

In this government’s eyes, land to sell off to fund vanity projects and line pockets is more important than people being cared for when they are sick.

“Nearly all England’s 50 biggest hospital trusts are failing to hire enough nurses to ensure patients are safe.

Nine in 10 of the trusts, which oversee 150 hospital sites, are not meeting their own safe staffing targets, according to analysis by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

The data also suggest nurses are being increasingly replaced by cheaper, unqualified healthcare assistants.

To cope with the shortage of nurses, more than half the largest hospitals (55%) brought more unregistered support staff onto shifts, the figures show. The situation is worse at night, with two thirds (67%) of hospitals using unregistered support staff — which critics claim will lead to higher patient mortality rates.

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said patients can pay the “very highest price when the government encourages nursing on the cheap”.

She added: “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.”

A separate study of staffing in NHS hospitals, published in the online journal BMJ Open, found that in trusts where registered nurses had six or fewer patients to care for, the death rate was 20% lower than where they had more than 10.

Hospitals have had to publish staffing levels since April 2014 in response to the scandal at Stafford Hospital, where hundreds died from neglect.

The RCN analysis, which calculates the average fill-rate across the month, reveals the worst affected site was the Royal Blackburn Hospital, which had on duty only three quarters of the nurses needed.

According to the RCN there are 40,000 nurse vacancies. Brexit, low morale, the end of bursaries for tuition fees, and the public sector pay freeze have all been blamed.

The Department of Health said: “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.”

Sunday Times (pay wall)

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