Responding to the weekly winter monitoring reports by NHS England, Prof Dame Donna Kinnair, Royal College of Nursing Acting Chief Executive and General Secretary, said:
“While Ministers have spent the past week squabbling over Brexit, hard-working NHS staff have been trying to care for patients in wards that are almost full to bursting. Experts agree that no more than 85 per cent of a hospital’s beds should be occupied at any one time in order to prevent the spread of infection and allow for emergencies, yet last week the average bed occupancy rate in England was 93 per cent. This is not sustainable. With the system working at its limit, a cold snap, flu outbreak or increase in cases of norovirus is all it takes to tip the balance.
“This winter will test our health and social care services and nurses will do the best they can, but there is a limit to what they can do without the support of policymakers. Unless the Government and NHS England take urgent steps to address the 42,000 nurse vacancies in England, our health and social care system will continue to struggle and patients will continue to pay the price.
“We’re calling on the Government to invest at least £1 billion in nursing higher education to increase student nurse numbers and address the shortage of nurses, with decision makers held accountable in law for providing enough staff to keep patients safe.”
For more information, please contact the RCN press office at 020 7647 3633