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RCN report reveals the sad state of the NHS as staff leave work “sobbing” and patients die alone

Ian Snug

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The Royal College of Nursing has called for an urgent patient safety review after nurses ‘blow the whistle’ on staffing shortages.

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The healthcare union is urging care providers to review if they have enough staff to provide safe and effective care this winter as it reveals the concerns of 30,000 front-line staff.

Research completed by the union showed that over half of shifts did not have the level of nurses planned and the shortage is compromising the care given to patients.

The survey of nursing staff in all four UK countries asked about staffing levels on their most recent shift and the quality of care provided. More than a third reported having to leave elements of patient care undone due to a lack of time, while two-thirds work an unpaid extra hour on average.

Seven in 10 nurses in England said their last daytime shift exceeded NICE guidelines, which state that more than eight patients to one nurse should act as a ‘red flag’. A quarter reported shifts with 14 or more patients per nurse.

Accident and emergency departments had the lowest quality ratings of all hospital services, with one in seven A&E nurses rating care as poor or very poor.

Almost half of all respondents said no action was taken when they raised concerns about staffing levels.

The respondents also reported that:

  • patients are no longer afforded enough dignity, even dying alone.
  • colleagues have burned out and have become sick themselves, unable to come to work.
  • staff leave work “sobbing” at the impact of shortages on patient care.
  • many question their future in nursing and contemplate leaving the profession.
  • they struggle to give their children and families enough support after shifts that can exceed 12 hours.

The findings come after the Nursing and Midwifery Council warned the nursing profession was shrinking as more people are leaving than joining the register.

Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said:

“When this many professionals blow the whistle, they cannot be overlooked. The nursing shortage is biting hard and needs the attention of Ministers – this warning comes from the very people they cannot afford to lose.

“The findings in this report are a direct result of years of poor planning and cost-cutting – it was entirely predictable.

“Nursing staff are revealing desperately sad experiences and their honesty must drive forward the policy debate. We urgently need assurances from every health and care provider that services are safe for patients, and new laws on staffing should follow swiftly.”

The RCN has repeated its call for increased funding for health and care services to meet the patient demand.

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RCN members deliver #ScrapTheCap petition to Downing Street

Ian Snug

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Frontline nursing staff today handed a petition of 67,000 names to Downing Street, urging the Government to scrap the cap on public sector pay.

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RCN members – representing every country of the UK – led the Summer of Protest campaign in their local communities.

Michael Coram (London), Kayleigh Peel (West Midlands), Jane Leighton (Northern Ireland), Julie Lambeth (Scotland) and Jean Richards (Wales) are RCN Pay Champions and spent the summer promoting the Scrap the Cap campaign, distributing campaign materials and organising events at hospitals and in public spaces.

The petition’s signatures were collected on 67,000 postcards, which were completed during the Summer of Protest, at events held in towns and cities. If stacked end-to-end the postcards would reach more than one and a half times the height of Mount Everest. The petition was accompanied by a letter from Michael Brown, Chair of RCN Council.

The campaign saw thousands of nurses join together to protest against the 1% pay cap, which has caused nursing pay to fall by 14% in real-terms since 2010, leaving them £3,000 a year worse off.

It highlighted that low pay has stood in the way of attracting enough staff to provide safe patient care. With 40,000 nursing vacancies in England alone and more nurses leaving than joining the profession, it is vital the Government ends the pay cap to prevent the nursing workforce from shrinking even further.

Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said:

“Nurses from all corners of the UK have shown the Government that they are a force to be reckoned with. Throughout the summer they campaigned tirelessly to end the cap which has cut their pay year-on-year.

“Our members in front of the famous door today and everybody across the UK should be proud of their achievements. The Government has listened to them and has categorically said they are scrapping the pay cap.

“This petition shows huge levels of public support for nurses, who work so hard to provide care for patients in the midst of a staffing crisis and increasing pressures in the NHS.

“Their next pay offer must not come in below inflation and Ministers must not ask the NHS to make other cuts to pay for it.”

After mounting pressure from the RCN, the public, other trade unions and MPs, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, announced in the House of Commons on October 10 that the pay cap will be scrapped.

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RCN warns of a “dangerous blind-spot” in dealing with assaults on NHS staff

Sarah J

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The Government has confirmed they will no longer collect information when NHS staff are assaulted.

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Health ministers will no longer collect information on NHS staff
assaults, the Government confirmed for the first time on the eve of a
Commons debate. A decision stands in contrast to the Home Office, which monitors assaults on police officers.

The Royal College of Nursing has warned that the move leaves the Government blind to the scale of the problem and risks a further deterioration.

The news comes only a week after Unison said it had concerned that cuts to mental health service were leaving staff vulnerable to violence and aggression.

MPs will today debate a Private Member’s Bill to strengthen the
law against people who assault emergency workers.

The Department of Health confirmed that the NHS and Government will not
continue to collect assaults figures – previously gathered and released
by NHS Protect. Ministers scrapped the body in the current fiscal
year without detailing where responsibility will fall.

The legislation will double the maximum sentence for common assault from
six months to a year if committed against an emergency worker while on
duty.

Last year, a survey of RCN members found more than half had
experienced physical or verbal abuse from patients and a further 63%
from patients’ relatives or other members of the public.

Final figures from NHS Protect showed a 4% rise in physical assaults
against healthcare workers in England from 67,864 in 2014/15 to 70,555
in 2015/16.

Figures from NHS Protect show that only 10 per cent of physical
assaults, unrelated to a medical condition such as a mental health
problem or dementia, result in criminal sanctions.

Kim Sunley, RCN Senior Employment Relations Advisor, said;

“This creates a dangerous blind spot for ministers hoping to tackle the increasing number of assaults in the NHS. It is totally inadequate to rely on optional surveys, especially if the law is being tightened.

“The official body, before it was disbanded, warned Ministers the level of assaults was rising. It should not have been removed and the Government must take their role more seriously.

“This bill represents a vital step towards achieving that, but without the ability to fully monitor the figures, it will be difficult to
quantify the scale of the problem, or the effectiveness of any new law.”

NICE estimated in 2015 that attacks on staff cost the NHS £69 million a
year through absence, loss of productivity and additional security –
equal to the cost of employing about 1,800 nurses.

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