Urgent review of understaffing urged after nurses ‘blow the whistle’ on shortages

Female nurse checking a patient's blood pressure
Female nurse checking a patient's blood pressure

The Scottish Government, health boards and integration authorities must examine whether Scotland has enough nursing staff to provide safe care to people, the Royal College of Nursing is urging as it reveals the concerns of 30,000 front-line nursing staff.

The survey of RCN members in all four UK countries asked about staffing levels on their most recent shift.

Across the UK more than half (55 per cent) said shifts fall short of planned staffing levels and that the shortage is compromising the care given to patients (53 per cent).

In Scotland over 3,000 RCN members responded to the survey. Of those:

Half (51 per cent) of respondents told us their last shift was not staffed to the level planned and 53 percent said that care was compromised as a result.

Over half (54 per cent) of respondents reported that they didn’t have enough time to provide the level of care they would like, 47 per cent said that they felt demoralised and over half (54 per cent) said are upset that they could not provide the level of care they wanted.

61% of respondents worked extra time – on average 46 minutes at the end of their shift.

Over a third (34%) said that because of a lack of time they had to leave necessary care undone.

The findings come after the nursing regulator – the Nursing and Midwifery Council – warned earlier this year that more people were leaving the nursing profession than joining it.

In addition to a repeated call for increased funding for health and care services to meet real demand, as well as investment in nursing pay to be increased, the Royal College of Nursing is calling for new legislation in each country of the UK that guarantees safe and effective nurse staffing.

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

“Nursing staff are revealing desperately sad experiences and their honesty must not be ignored. Urgent safety reviews must begin around the UK and new laws on staffing should follow swiftly. Politicians must increase NHS funding to give patients the care they deserve and pay nurses a fairer wage.”

Theresa Fyffe, Director of the Royal College of Nursing in Scotland, added:

“Over 3000 nursing staff in Scotland have chosen to speak out about the challenges which they face when they go to work each day. Nursing staff are blowing the whistle on how just how untenable the situation is for them and for the people they care for.

“For too long the concerns of Scotland’s nursing teams have been ignored, and the care of patients in hospitals and in their own homes has suffered as a result.

“This report shows the strength of feeling that there is amongst nurses and health care support workers who want to deliver the very best care to patients, but come up against the realities of workforce pressures on every shift.

“Decision makers cannot ignore the voice of nursing staff who say that there are not enough of them to provide safe, effective, high quality care any longer. The Scottish Government has the opportunity with its proposed safe staffing legislation to address these challenges and to safeguard nursing in Scotland for generations to come. The RCN will work tirelessly to seek to ensure that legislation delivers real improvement for people who need care, and for those providing it.

“Nursing teams on the frontline have spoken out; it is now up to those in positions of power to listen and to act.”