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Nurses warn patient safety is being compromised by equipment shortages

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A dire lack of manual handling equipment is compromising the safety of nurses and their patients, suggests a survey by Nursing Times.

Two thirds of nurses believe that lack of access to specific products and equipment compromises patient safety, according to the survey of more than 600 Nursing Times readers.

More than half of nurses also warn that their own safety is compromised by poor access to products and equipment, while many highlighted a negative impact on patient comfort and dignity.

Additionally just under half said the products and equipment they used in their everyday work did not meet their own needs or their patients’. Nurses listed a catalogue of basic items in short supply at their organisations, but most commonly highlighted a lack of moving and handling equipment such as hoists and slide sheets.

One respondent said: “We have one hoist and one sling for the use of four patients who require this equipment several times daily. I dread to think what will happen if we contaminate the sling, which is used for toileting purposes.

“We also have no appropriate soft spoons to assist people with their diet. I have requested these items repeatedly.”

Another said: “We have old rickety couches on which to treat patients, including smear taking. They don’t go up or down and we all have backache.”

Just under half of respondents were staff nurses while a third described themselves as senior nurses. Around a quarter worked in primary care and more than half in acute settings.  

Just over a third of respondents said they had influence over the selection of the products and equipment they used.

Around 40 per cent said they were aware of alternative products or equipment that could improve safety, patient care or the efficiency of nursing staff.

However, only a third of respondents said they always received training or instruction before using products or equipment for the first time.

In the majority of cases, when this training was given, it was delivered by a representative from the company that made the product or demonstrated by a colleague. Written instructions on how to use something were given to nurses far less often.

  • Nominate your outstanding nursing products: The Nursing Times Product Awards recognise and reward products transforming patient care.  Have your say, send nominations to: Laura.hargreaves@emap.com.  For more information visit www.nursingtimesproductawards.com.
  • 2 Comments

Readers' comments (2)

  • And yet the compulsory manual handling updates all ridiculously insist that all this equipment is freely available, and they will 'look into it' if it isn't. Yeah right!

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  • This article does not show that ward managers were approached regarding this issue, surely it's a matter for them to be informed of equipment shortages and that it's ordered and available? Correct me if i'm wrong but don't we have a Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 that is legislation and has both duties for the employer and employee?

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