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Overstretched nurses 'ration care'

Published on 30 July 2013 10:30 AM

Nurses say they are being forced to 'ration care' because they are too busy to look after hospital patients properly.

Nearly 9 in 10 nurses questioned for a study carried out by the University of Southampton said they did not have enough time to perform at least one 'care activity' such as comforting patients or changing a patient's position in bed to prevent bed sores.


Other fundamental aspects of care, including proper patient surveillance, documenting care, administering medication properly and preparing patients for discharge, are also 'frequently being left undone'.

The study examined data from almost 3,000 nurses who work in 46 hospitals throughout England.

They were asked by researchers from the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery whether they were unable to perform basic care elements because of time constraints.

The authors found that 86% of nurses were unable to perform at least 1 of 13 elements because they were too busy.

Nurses lack time to comfort patients

Comforting and talking to patients was the most common activity to be shelved by busy nurses, with 66% saying they did not have time to do this on their last shift.

Just over half of nurses said they were forced to skip 'educating patients', and 47% said they did not have time to develop or update nursing care plans.

The average nurse was responsible for 7.8 patients on a day shift and 10.9 at night. Not surprisingly, the fewer patients a nurse looked after, the less likely care was to be missed or rationed.

Nurses looking after 11 or more patients were twice as likely to say they rationed patient monitoring as those looking after 6 or fewer patients, according to the study, published in the online journal BMJ Quality & Safety.

The researchers found that 78% of nurses in the best staffed hospitals reported some care was missed on their last shift, compared with 90% of those with lower staffing levels.

'Most nurses working on general medical and surgical wards in this representative sample reported that some care was left undone on their last shift,' the authors said.

Copyright Press Association 2013

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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