The Royal College of Nursing has criticised a trust in Yorkshire for asking porters and cleaners to feed older patients due to a shortage of nurses.
Managers at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust are asking back-office staff to spend two hours of their working week assisting nurses with basic duties on wards.
The idea has been adopted at the trust’s three hospitals in Wakefield, Dewsbury and Pontefract. The trust recently cut more than 60 nursing posts in order to save £20m.
Nursing leaders have expressed “huge reservations” about the move, warning that patients will not be properly cared for because the staff involved do not have clinical training.
But managers at Mid Yorkshire insist their plans will help provide patients with the “best possible care” and give non-medical staff the chance to gain more experience of working directly with patients.
Last week’s high profile report by NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh identified clinical staff shortages at all 14 trusts with high mortality rates that his team investigated.
Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “I have huge reservations. Asking people employed as porters to work on wards is no substitute for properly trained staff.
“It will lead to unsatisfactory care and poor patient experience. People will not know what they are meant to be doing,” he said.
“Surely these people are doing relevant work for the trust so how can they be released to care for the elderly if they are needed in these roles?
“It’s not a long-term solution, especially given the huge rise in numbers of older people,” he added.
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