Not enough nurses in the NHS
News article published on: 17th September 2019
Today, it has been reported in the press that the rise in the number of nurses in the NHS has made little difference to the care patients receive. This is because the number of patients needing care and treatment in the NHS has increased.
Apparently, according to data provided by The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) the number of nursing staff has increased by 4.6% over the last 5 years but the number of patients being admitted to hospital has increased by 12.3% to 14.2 million. That is 2.67 times the rate of the increase in nursing staff. There are approximately 224,000 nurses in post.
Does this mean that patients are not able to receive the care they need and that they are not safe in the NHS? It is clear that more has to be done to ensure that staffing levels are safe enough so that patients are provided with and receive good nursing care.
Will the proposed new NHS budget assist? Apparently, in around 2018/2019 approximately £129 billion was spent in the NHS and of that £115 billion was spent on the actual NHS budget and the rest was apparently spend by the Department of Health on training, education, public health initiatives and infrastructure (such as building new hospitals and IT systems).
The government has said that an additional £20.5 billion will be made available for the NHS by 2023/2024 and that this is expected to ‘help stem further decline in the health service, but it’s simply not enough to address the fundamental challenges facing the NHS or fund essential improvements to services that are flagging.’
The NHS is under constant strain with increased demand to provide care for more people i.e. growing and ageing population.
The RCN has found that one in nine nursing posts is filled. This means that everyone is working under constant pressure and doing the work of more than one person because of the shortages. The RCN General Secretary Dame Donna Kinnair is quoted as saying that this data should act as a “stark warning“. “Staffing shortfalls are never simply numbers on a spreadsheet – they affect real patients in real communities.”
She has said that there should be proper planning and that the law to ensure safe staffing as in Wales and Scotland should be introduced in England.
The government’s response to all of this is that the number of training places for nurses is in the process of being increased by 25%. This is all well and good but there must be a way of attracting people to the profession.
As a former nurse, who qualified when standards in nursing were completely different to as they are now because; the wards were spotless, the matrons were in charge of the wards and they were strict, all nurses wore hats and their uniforms were pristine. The standards were high and patient care was excellent. At present, I struggle to see how people can be enticed into the profession when I hear and see how standards are slipping; wards are chaotic and often dirty, medical and nursing staff are overworked, exhausted, undervalued and underpaid.
The emotional well being of NHS employees is often damaged which has a knock on affect for their life outside work.
Yet the government maintain that ‘ensuring there are enough staff available for the NHS is key priority’. I suppose all we can do is see what they have to offer and if they can entice those who have left the profession to return; those who would like to take the jump to join up but are not quite sure and those who have one foot out the door because they have had enough and cannot continue, to stay.
This blog is written by Stephanie Prior, Head of Medical Negligence, Osbornes Law