The director of the National Patient Safety Agency has issued a stark warning about the impact cuts in nursing posts will have on patient safety.
NPSA patient safety director Suzette Woodward told Nursing Times that nurse under staffing would cause “risk factors” such as tiredness and fatigue, and lead to burnout, inadequate education and supervision.
She said: “All are classic examples that predispose individuals to make mistakes, and make it difficult for others in the environment to identify a mistake before the consequences are serious.”
She added: “Reducing nursing numbers is not the way forward to efficiency and any changes should be risk assessed for their impact on patient care.”
Ms Woodward was speaking to Nursing Times in the lead up to the publication of the Health Bill this week. She expects it will create a “statutory duty of quality improvement which encompasses patient safety” for providers and commissioners.
However, she said she was concerned about the lack of a national body to ensure this duty was met.
“It is not clear who will ensure that improvements are made; who will provide the national direction and support; who will help reduce variation across the system; who has the time to really look at what the key risks are for patients across the system and share lessons and good practice,” she said.
She also expressed concern about the imminent abolition of the NPSA, which she said would leave the patient safety movement leaderless.
That could lead to a lack of understanding of patient safety issues, creating a culture of fear where trusts ask “who did it?” instead of “why did it happen?” when something went wrong, she said.
Ms Woodward called on nurses to work to change the blame culture.
“Even today, nurses continue to have policies which state that when nurses are involved in a drug error they are to be ‘punished’,” she said.
“There needs to be a commitment by nurse leaders and nurse managers for a different approach.
“Without such leadership, the patient safety movement cannot succeed.”