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RCN issues staffing levels call

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Scottish nursing leaders have called on the NHS to make staffing levels a priority to ensure the safety of patients.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said there is a clear link between care failures and poor staffing levels.

A new RCN report says that, in a recent survey, two-fifths of nurses in the UK reported that care was compromised at least once a week due to staffing shortages.

It found that “avoidable complications” such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), urinary tract infections (UTIs) and pressure ulcers are only avoidable if nursing care is delivered effectively.

This relies on having sufficient nurses with the right skills in place, according to the Guidance on Safe Nurse Staffing Levels in the UK report.

It says Scotland is the only part of the UK that has nationally agreed “workforce and workload planning tools” for the nursing workforce. These are designed to ensure health boards employ the right number of nurses and unregistered nursing staff with the right skills in the right places.

However, the RCN said health boards are disregarding the tools and are relying on staff turnover and other “short-sighted” measures to reduce nursing and other staff in a bid to balance their books.

RCN Scotland director Theresa Fyffe said: “It is a great shame that the sophisticated workforce and workload planning tools for the nursing workforce in Scotland are being overlooked as health boards try to save money by not replacing nurses and other staff when they leave.

“NHS nurses who regularly report that patient care is compromised are working on wards with twice as many patients per registered nurse as those who report care is never compromised, according to the study.”

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