Most hospitals in Britain are failing to provide a safe level of nursing care for elderly patients, according to the alarming findings of a report published today. According to the Royal College of Nursing, hospitals have on average on nurse for every nine elderly patients. It says the minimum number of patients per nurse should be seven.
Hospitals are trying to evade staff shortages by using health care assistants – and giving them too much care responsibility, it says. It says on average there is one assistant for every nurse – when there should be two nurses for every assistant.
The RCN says staffing shortages particularly affect wards with elderly patients. On general wards there is an average of one nurse for every 6.7 patients – and on children’s wards the ratio is 4.2. Its findings are backed by a survey of nearly 1,700 nurses. This found that 78 per cent reported failing to spend any time talking to patients or comforting them on their last shift.
Some 59 per cent said promoting mobility and self-care did not feature in their work routine – while 34 per cent said they had no time to help patients with food or drink. The RCN says a number of states in Australia and the USA already have guaranteed staffing levels. These are California, New South Wales and Victoria. Hospital managers said the report raised “complex” issues – and rejected the call for mandatory staffing levels. Patient representatives welcomed the findings.
Jo Webber, of the NHS Confederation, said it was “truly unacceptable” that elderly people should be let down by poor staffing. She said: “The answer lies in tackling a complex range of issues in areas like culture, values and styles of leadership. Staffing levels may well be an issue in some parts of some hospitals, but we should avoid leaping straight to the simplistic solution that we need more nurses everywhere.” She added: “There are factors other than staff ratios that are crucial to improving the care provided to older people. We need to look at the way we recruit and train staff so they have the right values as well as skills.”
But Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “Nurses need time to nurse. It cannot get any simpler than that. Yet year after year patients are subjected to poor care.”
RCN chief executive Dr Peter Carter said: “We believe the development of safe mandatory nurse to patient ratios is crucial to the future of the NHS, and that improved patient outcomes will not be delivered without them.
“These ratios must be adopted by providers, regulators and commissioners of health services as a matter of urgency.”
Source: Englemed Newsroom