Eight of 10 NHS workers have raised concerns about staffing levels and patient safety, with many also saying that their warnings had been ignored, suggests a national media survey.
The survey, carried out by the Observer and Guardian newspapers, found 80% of respondents had raised concerns about insufficient staff being on duty to give patients safe and high-quality care.
“Basic care is consistently compromised”
In addition, 59% of the health service nurses, doctors and managers who responded to the survey said no action was taken in response to their concerns being raised, according to the results published by the papers over the weekend.
Over 1,000 members of the Observer and Guardian healthcare network took part in the new poll, the findings of which echo previous research by unions and other organisations.
It also comes in the wake of the health and social care secretary acknowledging earlier this month that workforce was his “biggest worry” at the moment, with particular concerns about nursing.
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The UK nursing register has been shrinking for the first time in recent history, nurse vacancy rates in England are at an all time high, and a regulator recently said that the NHS was short of 100,000 staff.
The self-selecting survey of health professionals from a range of roles was conducted in the weeks immediately after the start of the new year, when the service was in the grip of the “winter crisis”.
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Almost half of respondents (48%) said care had been compromised on their last shift, while only 2% felt there were always enough people to provide safe care.
Meanwhile, 53% of respondents said they could not provide the level of care they want to and 77% had considered leaving their job in the NHS.
Other findings from the survey included that 75% of respondents ranked safe staffing levels as the first or second most pressing problem currently facing the health service.
“There is only one senior midwife when there should be at least two”
Furthermore, 76% often or always worked beyond their contracted hours and 75% skipped breaks, while 67% said there was a shortfall in planned staffing in their department when they last went in to work.
One senior nurse, who works in a large accident and emergency department in the North of England, was quoted as saying that she regularly managed more than double the number of patients that her unit had capacity for.
“I have seen clinical errors increase and staff blamed for them with little appreciation of the overwhelming pressure,” she said. “Basic care is consistently compromised.”
In addition, a midwife who completed the survey said that “every other shift” was usually short staffed. “We are normally two midwives down when this happens, or on particularly bad shifts, there is only one senior midwife when there should be at least two,” she told the papers.
She added: “We are then allocated multiple patients or are pressured to transfer patients more quickly than we would like.”
“It’s not possible to give any sort of quality service”
Meanwhile, a health visitor said: “I share a caseload of 1,000 children. I am contracted for 25 hours a week, and my colleague 37.5 hours. It’s not possible to give any sort of quality service.”
In response, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We have record numbers of staff in the NHS, but there is more to do.
“We announced the biggest increase in training places for doctors and nurses in NHS history,” he told the papers.
Last week, the Royal College of Nursing launched a new campaign designed to encourage nursing staff to “rest, rehydrate, refuel” during shifts.
Under the banner of the “3Rs”, it has published a set of resources, including posters and advice with the aim of making staff think about the consequences of not looking after themselves while on shift.