According to a recent study from the University of Southampton, patient’s lives are being put at risk due to low numbers of nurses.
Despite policy changes made in 2013 to combat the problem, one in four of the NHS trusts who took part in the survey reported the number of patients per registered nurse was more than the ratio deemed a threat to patient safety, 1:8, on over 65% of shifts last year.
The university’s study found that since the policy changes in 2013, the total number of nursing staff in acute care has increased, however, patient admissions have also increases meaning no net improvement in staffing levels.
The study also found that although overall nursing staff numbers had increased since 2013, the number of less skilled healthcare assistants also increased, leading to a ‘dilution of skills’. Registered nursing staff increased by 10% in the years 2013 to 2016, compared to a 30% increase in healthcare assistants in the same period.
The study included a survey of directors of nursing in all acute hospitals in England and an analysis of national workforce data.
The findings from this study are particularly alarming in the context of the NHS’s reliance on overseas nursing staff. Since 2016 the NHS has seen a net loss of nurses from the EU (with more nurses from EU countries leaving the NHS than joining it). With nurse-to-patient ratios already at a critical level, it is difficult to see how the NHS will be able to combat this problem which poses very significant risks for patient safety.
Helen Budge is a senior clinical negligence solicitor with Potter Rees Dolan. Should you have any queries about clinical negligence issues and wish to speak with Helen or any other member of the team please contact us on 0161 237 5888.