Female nurses studying at laptop

RCN: Failure to address nursing shortages puts patients at risk

As healthcare providers mark World Patient Safety Day, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has issued a stark warning that without urgent action to address the shortage of nursing staff across the health and care system, patients and staff are being put at risk.

The RCN called for the UK Government to take immediate action on a range of measures to address the shortage, including giving nursing staff an immediate pay rise across the NHS as “recognition of their skills, responsibilities and experience”.

Investment into the training of new nurses and the abolishment of fees for nursing students, as well as a universal living maintenance grant reflective of actual student need, were included in the proposed action.

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted significant pressures faced by the nursing workforce across hospital, care home, community and wider health and care settings, shining a spotlight on the impact of staff shortages – there are an estimated 50,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in the UK alone.

To help respond to the virus, staff have been redeployed or stepped forward from studies and retirement, but the solution remains untenable long-term. Fears have, as such, been raised over health and safety, stress levels among staff and growing patient complexity.

Susan Masters, RCN Director of Nursing, Policy and Public Affairs, said: “With experienced nursing staff saying they are considering leaving the profession, it is clear that action needs to be taken now to protect the health and wellbeing of nursing staff as well as to build a workforce fit for the future.

“Unless all the governments in the UK act now there is very real risk the health and wellbeing of those who dedicate themselves to the care of others could become terribly damaged.”

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