Action 'being taken' on nurse staffing

Nursing staff Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Some 30,000 nurses across the UK recounted their experiences

Scotland's health secretary has said she wants things to be better for nurses "as soon as possible".

Shona Robison was responding to a UK-wide survey by the Royal College of Nursing which found widespread concern over staffing levels.

More than half of the nurses questioned said they did not have enough time to give the level of care they would like.

The RCN wants a review of whether there is enough nursing staff to provide safe care to patients.

Ms Robison said work was already under way in Scotland to address the issues raised by the survey.

The online survey included 3,000 nurses and midwives in Scotland who were asked a series of questions about their last shift at work.

Preliminary findings released in July revealed that half of respondents reported patient care was compromised on their shift due to staffing shortages.

The full survey results also show that 54% of nurses did not have enough time to provide the level of care they would like, while 38% did not feel satisfied with the quality of care.

Asked if the care was at the level they would wish receive as a patient, 46% disagreed.

The RCN survey also included anonymous quotes from nurses about the pressures they found themselves under, with some situations where patients had died alone on wards because staff simply did not have the time to be with them.

Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Nurses were asked a series of questions about their last shift at work

The RCN has called for new legislation in each part of the UK that guarantees safe and effective levels of staff alongside increased funding and pay.

Last year, the organisation welcomed Scottish government proposals to enshrine minimum NHS staffing levels in law, but said it would only work if backed up with funding for extra staff.

Theresa Fyffe, director of the RCN in Scotland, added: "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."

Speaking on the BBC's Good Morning Scotland radio programme, Health Secretary Ms Robison said she was was taking the RCN report "very seriously".

She said: "Where there is encouragement is the things that the RCN are calling for are things which are already under way in Scotland.

"So, for example, legislating for safe staffing levels and increasing funding - and of course we have with the extra 2,600 nurse and midwifery training places at a cost of £40m over the next four years.

"We have the first part of our workforce plan in place and the 'duty of candour' coming in next year will increase the scrutiny, transparency, openness and accountability that the RCN report calls for."

'Wake-up call'

Asked what she would say to "demoralised" nurses who want to know when things will improve, she said: "I want things to feel better, and be better, as soon as possible."

She added: "We will get on with the job here in Scotland. All the things the RCN have called for are under way, that is not the case elsewhere in the UK. That will make a real difference to nurses, but most importantly, for patients."

Speaking on the same programme, Julie Lamberth, a theatre nurse in Ayrshire, described how she had seen colleagues go home in tears because of the pressure they are under.

"Nurses are being pushed to the limits," she said. "Sometimes we are finding it difficult to answer that buzzer in a timeous manner to meet the needs of the patients as quickly as we would like to."

Opposition parties said the survey findings were a "wake-up call" for ministers. The Scottish Conservatives described them as "alarming" while Labour said action was needed to address "the workforce crisis in the NHS".

The Lib Dems said nurses needed more support and resources and the Scottish Greens said the current situation "cannot continue".

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