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RCN survey: A&E nurses raise concerns over patient safety

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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Readers' comments (3)

  • Until the government deals with the GP's things aren't going to change in A&E I'm afraid.

    Maybe there needs to be a fundamental rethink in primary care: merge practices to form 'super clinics' that are open 24 hours a day where you can attend without an appointment if you're unwell... Just a thought, .

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  • I didn't quite catch it all, but the news has just said something like there are only 5 A&E consultants on duty in the whole of England at night!
    I'm sure a lot of people go to A&E because they can't call out their GP or get an appointment with their GP the next day. I remember 'pre-appointment days' when you went to your surgery, sat and waited to see your GP, that's if you really felt the need.

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  • frankly i am disgusted and fearful about all the reports and comments I have read in the press over the last year and of the experiences of many of the patients. I am disgusted at how the staff are expected to do such vital work with such poor resources and I am disgusted all of this is happening in the UK which is supposed to be a civilised, modern, capitalist country and one of the richest in the world.

    I am shocked at the way the public in general are treated and how negative and often aggressive and unhealthy attitudes have spread like wildfire. everybody, and especially the sick and the most vulnerable, those who have contributed financially to the system and those who have given so much to care for others all deserve more and far, far better than this from the hands of the experts who must be allowed the time to look after them and offer the very best they can to each and every patient and their precious lives. The staff that NHS employs must be given the resources they need and adequately supported and valued by their employers which includes listening to their needs and opinions and providing them with adequate working conditions and a good career structure.

    Everybody knows and recognises this. there has been enough written about it and now what is needed is urgent action and great improvements.

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