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The results of a nursing survey released on the 23rd September 2011 revealed that 75% of nurses fear for their patients' safety because of poor staffing levels.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) estimates that 40,000 posts across Britain will be axed within three years as trusts are forced to slash budgets under NHS plans to save £20 billion. Of the 600 nurses questioned for the survey, 25% said their biggest safety concern was identifying deteriorating patients, followed by drug errors, slips, trips and falls and insufficient nutrition and hydration. Four per cent worried about patients receiving the wrong treatment through misidentification. All levels of the profession were questioned for the survey published by Nursing Times magazine.
RCN chief executive and general secretary Dr Peter Carter said: "It is critical to patient safety that changes to staffing levels and skill mix are made in line with patient need rather than as a knee-jerk response to financial pressures.
"Nurses and health care assistants are telling us that reduced staffing levels are compromising their ability to provide high quality care, and we urge employers and the Government to listen to these concerns.
"We remain very concerned that with so many NHS Trusts making staffing cuts to save money, patient care could suffer as a result."
The Royal College of Midwives survey finds that further cuts will put women's safety at risk as maternity units, already under-staffed and over-stretched, expect further job losses.
The stark figures collated by the RCN in Scotland show fewer than 30% of Scottish NHS nurses now feel secure in their jobs. Only two years ago, 82% felt they had a long-term future in their posts.
Figures released at the end of August showed that across Scotland nearly 1000 nursing posts are set to be cut by the end of the year. The nursing cuts will take figures below that of five years ago, according to the RCN Scotland.
Evidence of a current nursing shortage that is impacting on patient care is clear and it’s going to get worse over the next three years, if there is not just a freeze on nursing job cuts, but an increase in the number of nurses training through incentive schemes such as a starting bonus. Josie Irwin, staff-side secretary at RCN said: "Coalition policy means that nurses face suffering a second year of pay cuts. This comes on top of unprecedented change and upheaval in the NHS, leading to low morale, uncertainty and insecurity. The RCN calls on the pay review body to recognise that further attacks on pay will only do more damage to recruitment and retention in the NHS."
The results of increasing training numbers now will not be seen until in 2014, so to bridge the immediate gap consideration should be given to three year visas for qualified nurses from abroad.