NHS staffing crisis is jeopardising patients' safe care, say nurses at Northampton and Kettering hospitals

NHS staffing in crisis and jeopardising safe care, says RCN

By Kevin Nicholls
Tuesday, 5th April 2022, 10:23 am

Patients are at risk of experiencing poor care or harm due to persistent staff shortages, according to nurses in Northamptonshire.

Findings from an annual Royal College of Nursing survey carried out between September and November last year revealed as few as one in six nurses believes there are enough staff for them to do their job properly.

At Kettering General Hospital, only 15.1 percent of registered nurses and midwives say their organisation has enough staff – a sharp drop from 34.5 percent in the 2020 survey.

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A Royal College of Nursing survey raises safety concerns among medical staff at NGH and KGH

The proportion of nurses and midwives who said their trust had enough staff also fell at Northampton General Hospital to 22.7 percent, down from 35.1 percent two years ago.

And in Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which provides community care, the figure was 24.4 percent, down from 36.7 percent.

Maternity clinicians at NGH shut down its home births service last week in response to staff shortages caused by sickness, Covid isolation and unfilled vacancies.

A spokesperson for the University Hospitals of Northamptonshire NHS Group, which runs NGH and KGH, said: “The survey results are not where we would like them to be and show that we have several areas to improve on.

"We manage our staffing levels internally and we know that sickness and self-isolation from Covid, as well as ensuring our teams have adequate time off to rest, means staffing can sometimes be tighter than we would like.

"Our teams do all they can to ensure that even when we are under pressure, safe staffing levels are maintained and patients safety is not compromised.

“We have been proud to welcome many new nurses, health care assistants and other healthcare professionals to both hospitals.

"We will continue to work with our colleagues to enhance their experience of working at KGH and NGH and we are committed to make positive changes to enable our hospitals to provide the best experience for our employees and our local community.”

Teresa Budrey, RCN East Midlands regional director, said: “When nurses say there are too few staff for them to do their job properly, it’s worrying because it can mean patients don’t receive the care they need or their safety is compromised.

“There are nearly 8,000 vacancies for NHS nurses across the Midlands – that’s one in nine posts – and this number has barely changed in the past four years.

“Hospitals and other care providers have a huge challenge to recruit and retain enough nurses to fill the gaps. But they’ve been frustrated by the government ducking its responsibility to ensure a sufficient supply of staff.”

Fewer nursing staff in Northamptonshire are satisfied with their pay than a year ago, according to the survey.

Nurses say the falling rates of satisfaction with pay show how undervalued many nursing staff were feeling even before the government proposed a pay rise of only two to three per cent for NHS workers this summer — well below the current inflation rate.

Ms Budrey added: “Nursing staff are earning less in real terms than they were ten years ago.

"The cost of living is soaring and these results are yet another sign that more and more of them are feeling short-changed by the government for the skills, knowledge and responsibility they have.”