Royal College of Nursing warns: NHS nurse shortages may cause a risk to patient safety

17 Jun 2022

“Enough is enough” Pat Cullen, general secretary, and chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, warns that staffing shortages are causing risk to patient care.

Chief executive, Cullen, gave her speech at the annual RCN Congress in Glasgow on the 5th June, highlighting the impact of nursing staff and how it’s causing potential risk to patients’ safety. It was mentioned that patients were going without the care, medications and deterioration of sick patients getting unnoticed.

Dr Fiona Donald, the president of the Royal College of Anaesthetics said, “The shortfall means the NHS will struggle to tackle the backlog and places extra pressure on colleagues to complete extra shifts.”

A survey was delivered to over 20,000 nurses across the UK from executive directors, including chairs and chief executives, medical directors, nursing directions, directions of operations, HR directors and directors of strategy; the survey took place from 14th-23rd March 2022.

The results concluded that the NHS workforce shortage has caused a “serious and detrimental” impact on services stated by 95% of NHS providers. Almost 98% say that shortages will slow down the progress in tackling the major growing care backlogs following another 97% say that the lack of certainty over workforce supply may impact the ability of the NHS to retain its staff.

Nurses are extremely concerned about safety, explaining that patient care was being compromised, everything from basic personal care and ill patients getting late treatment and medicines not being given.

“NHS trusts and their overstretched staff are working incredibly hard to cut waiting times against a backdrop of worryingly high numbers of COVID-19 cases in hospitals, but they’re doing this with one hand tied behind their backs.” The deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery.

More staff?

Currently, all parts of the UK have set out plans to increase the number of nurses working for the NHS, the latest figures show there are now 321,000 nurses in England, which is 30,000 more than in September 2019.

“NHS staff are working incredibly hard to save lives and support patients day in and day out, an we are hugely grateful for everything they do.” A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said.

The NHS are currently 4,300 more doctors and over 11,700 more nurses compared to last year and are continuing to invest ‘hundreds of millions’ in growing the workforce.