The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned that 89% of nurses working in acute and emergency care think the strain on A&E services is leaving patients at risk.
The nursing union made the finding after polling 416 of its members in July. It also discovered 85% of nurses believe patient safety is affected by pressures on the departments, with almost a fifth claiming this happens every day.
Almost nine in 10 said the pressure had become more intense in their A&E department in the first half of 2013.
Around three in four nurses put this down to more people attending A&E, while nearly three-quarters pointed to patients attending A&E when primary care services or calling NHS 111 would have been a better option. Around three in five blamed a lack of beds, and over half said pressure was intensified by low numbers on duty.
RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said the survey proves staff working in emergency services are under increasing pressure, which is compromising the safety of patients.
“Staff enter the health profession to save and improve lives through first-class care. However, they simply cannot deliver this if there are too few staff to properly treat and monitor the increasing numbers of patients, not enough beds to put them in and no clear signposting to community care that could prevent attendance at A&E,” he said.
“The UK’s acute and emergency care services are one of the essential components of our national health service and we have to safeguard them.
“As winter approaches, we welcome this renewed focus on urgently addressing the issues threatening services and look forward to working with the NHS Confederation to help implement identified solutions.”
The NHS Confederation, which represents health service managers, also revealed the results of a survey on A&E pressures on Sunday.
The Confederation called for a “package of interventions to avert winter meltdown” on the back of its survey of senior members, in which 45.7% said they were likely or very likely to meet the 95% four hour waiting target for the next there months.
The survey - carried out in July - asked 125 chief executives, commissioners, chairs, medical directors and chief nursing officers about the causes of pressures on A&E and how they can best be managed. The findings are contained in report Emergency care: an accident waiting to happen?
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