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Focus: The nurse who is campaigning for safe staffing laws

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Case study: A nurse has told how he quit his job on an acute cardiology ward because persistent understaffing left him drained.

James Anthony said he felt like the quality of care he was delivering was suffering because he was regularly handling caseloads of 12 patients. He instead moved into a nurse specialist role.

“You get to the end of your shift and you’re absolutely physically exhausted2

James Anthony

He said: “One of the big things that made me move away from ward nursing was that I was ending up regularly looking after 12 patients, 12 hours a day, and just not being able to deliver the standards of care that I wanted to without really feeling the stress and pressure of it.

“You get to the end of your shift and you’re absolutely physically exhausted. It means when you get home you haven’t got the energy to engage with your family and you don’t have the energy to do healthy things like take exercise and try and cook healthy meals,” he told Nursing Times.

Mr Anthony is now helping to lead Unison’s campaign for legislated nurse-to-patient ratios.

The campaign would “almost certainly” involve nurses taking industrial action if predications about further shortages came true, said Mr Anthony, who is based in Birmingham and is on the union’s national executive.


James Anthony

James Anthony

Protection should also be put in place for staff who raised concern, said Mr Anthony, adding that he was aware of nurses who had been placed on performance management for reporting low staffing because it was assumed they could not cope with the job.

He added: “I think we have to have a shift to be very clear that nursing is a safety critical role and if you don’t have enough them then you’ve got to look at what you can do to make that situation safe.”

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