Cancer sufferers are being put at risk and care for patients undergoing surgery is “severely compromised” as a result of constant staff shortages on wards, according to devastating first-hand testimony from inside the NHS.
An astonishing dossier of concerns raised by nurses about the impact of staffing levels on patients reveals that nurses with the right skills are often in short supply, full staffing levels are becoming a “rare event”, and some emergency patients are being sent home as a result.
The testimony, compiled from 18,000 anonymous submissions from hospital nurses and shared with the Observer, states that some nurses are being asked to complete procedures beyond their expertise, while many vulnerable patients are not being given the emotional support they need. Some experienced nurses say they believe they are seeing the worst shortages in decades.
Compiled by the Royal College of Nursing, the dossier reveals the severe concerns over patient safety. One nurse writes: “A lack of trained chemotherapy nurses means we are treating patients every day in an unsafe manner, mistakes are being made and management have no answers to the staffing crisis.”
Another states: “Our [#cancer] patients may have to have less psychological support as we do not have the time to sit with them and reassure them. It may also mean that timely chemotherapy delivery is difficult. Today’s shift, where we were fully staffed with the majority of our own team, was a very rare event.”
There were similar concerns in relation to patients heading for surgery. “The level of [nursing] staff running theatre lists daily is inadequate,” one nurse states. “We are operating with the worst levels in theatre that I have seen in 40-plus years in theatres. Patient care is severely compromised due to staffing levels.”
Another writes: “Many times I have felt unsafe and when escalated have been told ‘but nothing major happened’, meaning the ‘what ifs’ are never addressed until something happens. The skill-set of nurses is a major problem, with nurses having to scrub for cases out of their competency through sheer lack of numbers.”