A survey of nurses and healthcare assistants across the UK, including over 500 from Wales, has found that many are treating patients whose health is being affected by the lives they are living.
In Wales, 35% have seen patients with their health affected by malnutrition or food poverty. 37% have seen patients with their health affected by inadequate or unsafe housing, while 20% have seen patients affected by a lack of heating.
43% of those surveyed UK-wide say their work is affected by heightened pressure on public health services and the RCN is concerned that these long standing issues may be getting worse due to a reduction in funding, and preventative work being reduced.
The way people are living is having a profound effect on the health of patients, with half of those surveyed believing that the proportion of their patients who need care for preventable conditions has increased during the course of their career.
Tina Donnelly, Director, RCN Wales said:
“As care givers working on the frontline, nurses are perfectly placed to inform us of the key issues affecting the health of the public; whether these be individual lifestyle choices, social inadequacies or environmental factors.”
“Those surveyed are telling us that the health of their patients are deteriorating due to social inequalities such as poor housing or poverty – intolerable issues that we would expect to be tackled more effectively in modern day Britain.”
“Whilst we must ensure that the public takes ownership of their personal health, there are many external factors that are holding them back from doing so. We must strengthen the public health agenda by increasing funding in Wales for key areas such as housing and social benefits to those who are truly in need.”
“Ultimately we must ensure that the inequalities which currently divide those with good and poor health become a thing of the past so that every member of the public is given the same opportunities in regard to their ongoing health and wellbeing.”
One nurse said:
“The elderly are becoming more socially isolated due to financial constraints from the government which impacts greatly on their physical and mental health.”
Another told us: “I work with homeless and drug and alcohol abusers, and have seen their lives become more difficult due to lack of resources and services being pulled out due to lack of funding.”