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'How much longer will our patients be put at risk?'

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For four years running wards across the country still report unsafe staffing levels, so claims a recent survey by Unison.

The annual Unison survey (red alert - unsafe staffing levels rising), was completed by 5000 nurses. Almost half of those surveyed revealed inadequate staff numbers, with 70% working through breaks to make up for the lack of patient supervision. ‘Staff are still not able to see all of their patients - despite doing lots of unpaid overtime.’ Christina McAnea, Head of Unison explained.

Wards across the country often only have one registered nurse looking after eight patients, there is still concern that patients are being put at risk. The Safe Staffing Alliance (SSA) has warned research shows that when a nurse is asked to look after more than eight patients there is an increased risk of harm or death. The SSA, RCN, Unison and Patient’s Association have all said that staffing levels have been ignored for too long.

During this time nursing leadership is crucial. Not only do we need clear guidance on numbers, we need the compassion and the communication skills to prevent an exodus of exhausted nurses from the NHS. Patient need and expectation cannot be allowed to outstrip nursing capacity. Nursing as a profession also requires the general election pledges to be focussed upon addressing the service pressures. Nursing leaders need to be able to retain current qualified numbers whilst attracting the development of Band 3 and 4 nurses. The provision of a ‘sustainable NHS’ is no longer acceptable; some nurses face depression and exhaustion. Nurses need help, hope, and the promise of safer patient care provision.

Emma Vincent is an interstitial lung disease nurse at Glenfield Hospital

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