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Union asks nurses to help draw up 24-hour snapshot of NHS staffing levels

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Health service nurses across the country are being asked to record nurse-to-patient ratios on their wards today, as part of a survey of staffing levels by a public sector union.

Findings from Unison’s sixth annual survey into safe staffing levels are intended to provide a “snapshot of conditions” in hospitals for staff and patients over 24 hours on Tuesday 7 February.

“We expect this year’s snapshot to show just how desperate the situation has become”

Christina McAnea

The union said the NHS was currently facing “unprecedented pressures” and the survey data would be released in time for Unison’s annual healthcare conference in April.

In addition to nurse-to-patient ratios, respondents should record any overtime worked, whether they took their breaks and the number of bank and agency staff on their shift.

To take part, nurses are asked to measure and record the following specific factors during their shift on Tuesday 7 February.

  • The length of their shift
  • If they worked any overtime (and if so, how much)
  • How many total patients during their shift
  • The total number of nurses during their shift
  • If they were able to take some, all or none of their breaks
  • The percentage of their shift spent working face-to-face with patients
  • The number of bank and/or agency staff on their shift
  • If their workplace has a set staffing ratio for nursing staff and what that is

Nurses must submit their data via the online survey by 9am on Monday 13 February for it to be included in the results.

Unison head of health Christina McAnea said: “We are facing the worst ever year for demand in the NHS and this is the busiest time of the year for hospitals, placing them under huge strain.

“NHS staff want to give patients safe, dignified and compassionate care yet nearly two-thirds of respondents to last year’s survey thought there were too few people working on their shift to allow this,” she said.

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Christina McAnea

She added: “We expect this year’s snapshot to show just how desperate the situation has become and how hard staff are working to keep things together.”

As reported by Nursing Times, in last year’s survey, 63% of respondents felt the numbers of staff on the wards were not adequate enough to ensure safe, dignified and compassionate care.

Unions head of health Christina McAnea said: “Hospitals are under intolerable strain, and increasingly staff are unable to provide the ideal level of care for patients.

“We have been campaigning to improve staffing levels for years,” she said. “But previous surveys have revealed that many NHS workplaces still have too few nurses.”

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