Nursing across Europe faces a “quality timebomb” caused by widespread cuts to staff and services, the head of the European Federation of Nurses Associations has warned.
In an interview with Nursing Times, EFN secretary general Paul de Raeve said it was now common place to find a single nurse covering an entire ward during a nightshift.
He told Nursing Times he was concerned Europe faced a major challenge to maintain safety and quality standards in coming years, after being hit heavily during the global financial crisis.
The EFN – formerly known as the standing committee of nurses of the European Union – was set up in 1971 to represent the profession at a European level. The Royal College of Nursing is the UK’s representative on the federation.
Mr de Raeve said all of the federation’s 34 members had seen cuts to nurses and hospital budgets slashed. Although some recovery was being seen in some countries, he said the healthcare sector across Europe faced losing many of the improvements made in the past decade.
He said: “In some cases there is no money to pay for shifts and on some wards it is not uncommon now to find you are on a nightshift on your own. You can find yourself alone as a qualified nurse in a lot of places nowadays.
“The pressure on nurses is very high and we should be afraid of losing all the improvements in quality and safety that have been made in recent years.”
Mr de Raeve described the situation as “like standing in deep water on tip toes”, which he warned was something that could not be done “forever”.
Mr de Raeve said: “The politicians cut [nursing numbers] very easily but they need to understand the jobs that nurses do.
“We won’t see the impact or effect of the cuts for a number of years. There is a quality time bomb coming down the road.”
However, he said he thought nurses in the UK were in a better position than some colleagues around Europe, who were paid less and in some countries had to take second jobs to pay the bills.
His comments come as the EFN has published a report (attached, right) looking at the state of nursing across its members. It reveals Europe wide cuts in nursing posts, salary and pay reductions, quality and safety issues and nurses left working longer and harder shifts.