Nurses have heavily criticised a minister for appearing to downplay the effect of staffing levels on care quality.
Care services minister Paul Burstow last week told Nursing Times that treating patients with dignity was “not just about creating x number of staff but staff with the right attitudes, empathy and understanding”.
He said nurses’ attitudes would be crucial in implementing the proposals in the white paper.
But Royal College of Nursing head of policy Howard Catton responded that scandals such as those at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust and Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust had demonstrated the problems arising from low staffing levels.
He said: “We’ve seen some really catastrophic failings where nurse staffing has been identified as being a significant issue and a major contributory factor. We know there’s very credible evidence linking nursing staffing levels to patient outcomes.”
He added: “If you’re consistently striving to deliver high quality care but you’re [short staffed], and you’re going home on a regular basis not feeling you’ve been able to give the best you can, that over time is a negative factor in motivation and hearts and minds.”
Mr Burstow’s remarks also provoked a fierce debate on nursingtimes.net.
One anonymous contributor said: “Being constantly restructured, regraded, transformed and overworked - expected to do more and more with the resources we have… does unfortunately affect staff attitudes to working environments and to the patients.”
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