Here at the RCN’s regional office in Sunderland, we’ve been keeping a very close eye on the situation across Cumbria and the North East. It’s very clear from the latest set of figures that the NHS, and its hospitals in particular, is continuing to operate under severe pressure. Over the Christmas period and since, NHS trusts across Cumbria and the North East have been bursting at the seams. There were more than 76,000 seriously ill or injured people attending the region’s emergency units during December alone – a 4 per cent increase on the same period last year. Many hospitals have been operating with 90 per cent of beds being used - well above the 85 per cent safe limit recommended by experts. And outbreaks of flu and norovirus have led to further pressure on already overstretched health services.
A lack of beds for new patients is a major factor contributing to the severe pressures on the NHS, but it’s simply impossible for trusts to open extra beds without the nurses to staff them and care for patients.RCN representatives and members are telling us that staff are struggling to hold the NHS together and the situation continues to get worse with increasing demand from an ageing population and a severe nursing recruitment and retention problem.
As part of the BBC’s special Nurses' Day last week, the RCN helped to shed a light on the challenges and pressures faced by nurses, nursing and the NHS. The College featured in a significant part of the BBC’s output that day, with the BBC’s main news story focusing on nurses leaving the NHS. Locally, the RCN took part in various interviews broadcast on local BBC radio stations.
The RCN has been warning of underinvestment in nursing staff for some time. That underlying problem has now developed into a full-blown crisis. In the words of RCN Regional Director for Northern Region Glenn Turp: ‘We cannot continue to rely on the enormous goodwill and commitment of staff to keep the system going’.
Read the latest NHS winter situation reports (SitRep) data.
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