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Elderly Need More Nurses Report Says

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.┬áPatient 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

Image: Betacam

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  1. Susan | Mar 23, 2012 | Reply

    The one solution to see the truth what is going at the departments Elderly Care. Let all
    chief executives to come to the ward and do the job and see how they can manage 12 hours shift with out breaks, day light and finishing the shifts late. Instead of having their lunches outside and discussing what, when and how? Wake up you are next could be at the elderly ward as a Patient in 10-20 years.

  2. Michelle | Mar 23, 2012 | Reply

    This report is a long time coming. I left elderly care last year as a staff nurse as the staff nurse patient ratio was usually 14:1 with one HCA sometimes two, who were worth their wieght in gold twice over. I miss eldely care work but as on every ward got sick of finishing so late and feeling like the care they had from me was barely sufficient. I now dread becoming old. If the staff ratio was one nurse to seven patients my shifts would have been a lot less stressful and perhaps I would have managed to stay on in elderly care.

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