There are currently 23,443 nursing vacancies in England, Wales & Northern Ireland equating to 9% of the workforce. A pretty substantial number by anybody’s standard. Trusts are running their hospitals below safe staffing guidelines or depending on agency staff.
Wales has made it a legal obligation for hospitals to be fully staffed. Nicola Sturgeon has made a similar commitment in Scottish but no law is likely or, debatably even possible in the English NHS, which employees more than 5 times as many nurses.
Of all the departments, A&E’s are often the most effected. Compounded by the hugely inflated numbers of patients being admitted to A&E over the last decade this can have grave consequences for A&E wards in Great Britain. This week the Nuffield Trust reported that over double the number of ambulances were redirected this winter by over stretched A&E.
The NHS has announced that funds are going to be redirected. Focus has been shifted from achieving 18 week waiting list for non-critical operations, instead to A&E’s. The hope being that investment will help.
Of course, it will. Investment will help the wards function better. This investment will mean more money to pay the Agency staff that cover unfilled shifts but does not provide a sustainable solution.
A sustainable solution is more complex than more money. The solution involves people using A&E’s responsibly, utilising alternatives, GP’s, the NHS 111 number and self-triage. However, the critical issue is lack of nurses.
A source reported that at Hommerton Hospital in Hackney, 50% of the nurse positions are unfilled, they are covered by Bank or Agency staff or not filled at all. The NHS needs more nurses in permanent positions, especially in A&E’s and for this to happen we need long term solutions.
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