Nurses are “propping up” the NHS by consistently working in excess of their contracted hours and providing last minute shift cover, according to findings from an ICM survey of 2,000 UK nurses.
The poll, commissioned by the Royal College of Nursing and revealed at the college’s annual congress on Sunday, found 95% of respondents reported working in excess of their contracted hours, with 22% saying they did so on every shift.
Only 17% of respondents described staffing levels in their ward or team as quite or very good, while 25% said they provided last minute cover for absentee staff at least fortnightly.
Just under 40% said they missed their meal time at work at least three times a week and only 32% reported being able to get a drink of water when they needed to.
Additionally, 21% stated that over the last six months they had spent a week or more at work despite feeling too unwell to attend.
Peter Carter, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said: “It is deeply worrying that nurses are telling us they do not have enough staff to deliver good quality care and our fear is that safety could also be compromised as a result.
“The NHS is going through considerable upheaval at the moment. Coupled with increasing demands on the health service including from a rise in people with long-term conditions, we are concerned at the NHS’ ability to cope. Trusts need to make sure they have the right numbers and balance of staff to deal with this.”
He added: “On top of working long hours, nurses are reporting missing meals and even struggling to get a drink of water. Nurses are the oil in the engine of the NHS and this survey shows how much the NHS depends on their goodwill. Keeping staff healthy not only improves their motivation but helps with patient care, and ultimately this can save the NHS millions.”
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