You should wherever possible, follow your organisation's incident reporting procedures (for example, complete a Datix or incident form). However, we recognise that in the current circumstances this could be a challenge.
The RCN has developed two letters to support you to document and report concerns. If you are a nurse, use our model letter for nurses. If you are a nursing support worker, use our nursing support worker model letter. It can be frightening to do this on your own, so try and get as many colleagues as possible to sign the letter. Give the letter to your manager at the end of your shift and keep a copy yourself.
You should also document patient safety issues or missed care in the patient notes. For example, if you should have been doing observations on a patient every two hours but only managed to do them every four hours, document this and the reasons why.
We understand that this may not improve this situation in terms of safe staffing and that much of this is outside your employer’s control, but our letter will help you document concerns in a quick and easy way.
If the matter remains unresolved, please see our raising concerns section.
What types of incidents should I report?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) describes an incident as a:
- near miss - an event not causing harm, but has the potential to cause injury or ill health (in this guidance, the term near miss will include dangerous occurrences), or an
- undesired circumstance - a set of conditions or circumstances that have the potential to cause injury or ill health, for example, lack of appropriately trained nursing staff to safely move and handle patients.
What about reporting psychological harm?
The RCN encourages members to report any work-related harm to their psychological health including work related stress.
If you don’t feel able to complete our letter or if you are worried about confidentially, log your concerns in writing with your occupational health provider who can support you to make your manager aware of the problem.
If you need support, contact us and see our mental health section.
What if the staffing situation does not improve?
If the situation does not improve despite submitting our letter, your next step is to formally raise concerns.
Organisations must have effective procedures in place to allow nursing staff and their representatives to raise any concerns in relation to staffing, equipment, policies and processes for managing COVID-19 and unsustainable work pressures at the earliest opportunity.
Nursing staff should feel able to raise concerns without detriment and should receive timely feedback on their concerns.
If you have followed these steps and the issue is still not resolved, please contact us.