Trusts and other employers are being urged to ensure nurses can keep hydrated, as a matter of patient safety, on what is the hottest day of the year so far in many parts of the country.
The Royal College of Nursing highlighted that, with 40,000 nurse vacancies in England alone, many hospitals were understaffed, making it potentially difficult for nursing staff to find time to rest and get a drink.
“Essentially it is not just a wellbeing at work issue but an issue of safety”
Weather forecasters are predicting a temperature figure of 34 degrees Celsius in London, which would make it the warmest on record since 1976.
The RCN said it advised nurses to take regular breaks and drink six to eight glasses of water a day, noting that hot weather meant people often needed to drink more than usual.
Kim Sunley, senior employment relations advisor at the RCN, said: “While most of us associate dehydration with a headache, it can actually impair physical and cognitive performance.
“Dehydration affects concentration, which triggers fatigue – essentially it is not just a wellbeing at work issue but an issue of safety,” she said.
“It is the duty of employers to ensure staff have access to drinking water, the time to rehydrate and go to the toilet, and that the working environment is adequately ventilated,” she added.
Ms Sunley highlighted that doing so was “not only in the interest of nursing staff but that of patients”.
As previously reported by Nursing Times, a 2015 study of 88 nurses and doctors at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust found that 36% were dehydrated before they had started their shift.
Using urine samples and short-term memory tests, the study also found that 45% of participants were dehydrated at the end of their shift, with short-term memory tests significantly impaired.