Care 'undermined by nurse shortage'
Published on 20 March 2012 11:30 AM
There are not enough nurses on wards to provide basic care for older people, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned.
It said the coalition Government should implement an NHS patient guarantee which sets out the minimum number of nurses on older people's wards.
It said there should ideally be at least one registered nurse for between five and seven patients, but the RCN's own research shows one nurse currently cares for about nine older patients - too few to offer the required standard of care.
'Despite working tirelessly to provide patients with high quality care, nurses in these settings have repeatedly told us that they are unable to do this because of pressures caused by short staffing,' said the RCN's chief executive Dr Peter Carter.
The union conducted a survey of almost 1,700 nurses, including 240 working on wards for older people.
Some 78% said they were unable to adequately comfort and talk to patients on their last shift due to low staff numbers, while 59% said promoting mobility and self care was left undone or unfinished.
And 33% said they were unable to fully help patients to the toilet or manage incontinence.
Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK, said: 'Low staffing levels on hospital wards dangerously compromises older patient's care and dignity.
'Good quality care must combine high quality clinical care with compassionate care. Nurses need time to be able to look after, listen and respond to their older patients, many of whom will have complex medical and emotional needs.
'When healthcare professionals are understaffed and consequently focused on task based, rather than person based care, the dignity and care of older patients can be severely jeopardised,' she added.
'Age UK's Dignity In Care report, in partnership with the NHS Confederation and the Local Government Association, shows that a major cultural shift is needed in the way that care is delivered across the NHS and the care home sector.
'Sisters and ward leaders need to be given the absolute authority to instil the values of compassion and dignity across every aspect of patient care.'
Copyright Press Association 2012