A poll commissioned by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has shown public concerns over nurse staffing levels. The findings come as the RCN publishes a new report for the first day of its annual Congress, Staffing for Safe and Effective Care: Nursing on the Brink, which throws into sharp relief just how badly staff shortages are affecting both safe patient care and the mental and physical health of nurses themselves.
The YouGov poll asked members of the public across the UK questions about the number of nurses working in the NHS.
The results show that 74% of people think there are too few nurses to provide safe care. More than a quarter (27%) said that their main concern around the shortage of nursing is that they are not getting the care that is required when needed; with 17% saying their primary concern was that the care they received may not be safe.
The public poll follows on from an RCN member survey carried out in 2017 which showed that over 50% of respondents in Scotland said that their last shift was not staffed to the planned level.
Addressing RCN Congress today, Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the RCN will say:
“This situation could have been avoided. It was no accident - it was sadly inevitable.
“The reason we have so many vacancies is because of short-sighted cost-cutting in past years, and ineffective workforce planning driven by finance and not the needs of patients.”
Speaking about the results, RCN Director for Scotland, Theresa Fyffe, added:
“The results highlight the enormous public concern that there is around the number of nurses working in Scotland’s NHS, and the ability of patients to receive care when and where they need it.
“Two years ago, Scotland’s First Minister made a commitment at RCN congress to legislate for safe staffing levels. Getting that legislation right will mean that Scotland has the nursing staff it needs to care for patients now and in the future.
“The public must have confidence that the NHS services used by them and their loved ones are staffed to a safe level. That nearly 75% of people don’t believe that this is the case shows that the time is right for safe staffing levels to be set out in law.”