The news that nurse to bed ratios will be published for every hospital in England after the NHS reforms have been introduced is welcome, but doesn’t go far enough to protect patient safety and ensure the provision of good, fundamental care.
This “dashboard”, being introduced by the National Quality Team, will give some degree of benchmarking trust to trust, which will be useful – if those organisations take notice of it. But that’s a big if. The trusts that continually overload their nurses will be made aware of how far they are pushing their nursing team. But without some degree of compulsion to change, will they recognise the error of their ways and do something about it? Or will they continue to flog their nurses and overstretch them just because they can?
While many in healthcare can’t find common ground over the decision to introduce nurse to patient ratios, most nurses I have spoken to feel that it would provide a benefit to the profession – and to patients – to police these ratios.
In fact, many nurses have told me that they are being asked to look after more and more patients each shift, and that care is deteriorating as a result. Some have said that they’ve been regularly left alone in charge of up to 20 patients on an older people’s ward during a night shift. And that just isn’t acceptable.
Have we moved on at all since charge nurse Graham Pink blew the whistle on what was happening on his older people’s ward two decades ago?
We know older patients are likely to have a complex set of conditions and are probably less mobile so they cannot get themselves water or walk to the toilet. To be left in charge of so many dependent patients almost guarantees that essential care will be overlooked.
Are managers really going to continue to pile more pressure on nurses without thinking of the consequences?
From the nurses I have spoken to I think we have evidence that the profession is still being taken for granted. And I think it’s fair to assume that nothing will change unless something forces it to.
Those who are too busy to give their patients water, write up their records or provide pain relief in a timely manner know there is a case for setting mandatory ratios. So why aren’t there more people who recognise the benefits of properly resourcing their teams?
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