Care home nurses raise understaffing concerns

Care home nurses have raised concerns about chronic understaffing in the sector, in a new poll in nursing magazine Nursing Standard.

One respondent to the magazine said: “I’m expected to look after 44 residents on two floors for a 12-and-a-half-hour shift.”

Even though almost all respondents said they had reported a safe-staffing concern, employers were often incapable of, or unwilling to, address the issue. “Patients’ well-being is the last thing on the system’s agenda,” one said. Another added: “I was told it wasn’t unsafe, just not ideal. That was me and one carer on a night shift for 34 residents in a nursing home.”

RCN acting chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair said the Nursing Standard survey shows nurses are being put in an untenable position. She said: “Front-line nursing staff can blame decisions taken at the national level for what they’re seeing in their workforce.”

The Nursing and Midwifery Council regulator requires registrants to document and escalate any potentially harmful incidents. But 9.5 per cent of respondents said they would not report a colleague who had made a mistake through short-staffing that had resulted in, or risked, patient harm. 

In the survey, nine out of ten nurses say understaffing is affecting quality of care for patients. Of the 2,064 nurses who took part:

  • 94 per cent said an understaffed environment affected the quality of care and treatment they had been able to provide
  • 91 per cent said their professional values have been compromised by understaffing in the past 12 months
  • 61 per cent said their employer tried to address the problem but had been ineffective
  • 83 per cent said they had reported a safe staffing concern to their employer
  • 76 per cent said they would report a colleague if they made a mistake due to understaffing
  • Lack of breaks and working extra hours unpaid emerged as a theme. 
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  1. Sue Lane

    As an employer we are finding it extremely difficult to recruit care assistants, with three out of four candidates not appearing for interview. Once a suitable candidate has been recruited it then takes between 8 and 10 weeks (sometimes longer) for the DBS to be returned, leaving the care home short of staff and the candidate unable to earn money (many lose faith in ‘the system’ and find alternative employment within a different sector (e.g. retail). I believe this is a national problem? Also, being in rural cumbria, we are unable to find Agency Staff (having tried on numerous occasions)

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