New warnings over the safety of patient care

In Scotland, the Royal College of Nursing is warning that nurses are “propping up” the NHS by regularly working overtime, leading to serious concerns over the safety of patient care.

Amidst all the talk of resignations and concessions over the government’s flagship health bill, in Scotland, the Royal College of Nursing is warning that nurses north of the border are “propping up” the NHS by regularly working over their contracted hours and providing last-minute shift cover, leading to serious concerns over the safety of patient care.

As part of a ‘snap shot’ survey of 200 Scottish nurses commissioned by the RCN, ICM Research found:

• 96% of respondents reported having worked in excess of their contracted hours, with 27% saying they did this for every one of their shifts;

• Just 11% of respondents felt that staffing levels at their place of work were quite good or very good with 29% saying they provided last minute cover for absentee staff at least fortnightly.

As the results were published on the eve of the RCN’s national conference in Liverpool, the college’s director in Scotland, Theresa Fyffe, explained:

“The health and well-being of NHS staff is a major concern. If they become overstretched and stressed because they or colleagues are ill, there is a risk that poor practice can emerge.

“In Scotland, we are asking the next government to ensure that health boards implement the recommendations of the Boorman Review into NHS staff health and well-being. This is one way in which the NHS can begin to take better care of staff to allow staff to provide the standard of care they would like.”

Responding to the findings, a spokesman for SNP health secretary Nicola Sturgeon sought to highlight the party’s policy of protecting the health budget.

He said:

“We hugely value the contribution of Scotland’s nursing staff, who do go above and beyond the call of duty. That is why we have increased the number of nurses, and doctors and dentists, working in the NHS – and why a re-elected SNP government is pledging to protect the health budget, which will result in over £1billion of new investment in Scotland’s NHS over the course of the next parliament.”

For Labour however, shadow health secretary Jackie Baillie criticised the SNP for policies which have seen nursing taking the brunt of the pain being faced by the NHS.

She remarked:

“It is simply unacceptable that the SNP are making nurses bear the brunt of the NHS cuts. Under Nicola Sturgeon’s watch, 1,500 nurses’ jobs are being axed and there are likely to be more job losses to come judging from the information emerging from the workforce plans for this year.

“This puts even more pressure on the staff that are left behind. I want to see resources going to the frontline to support NHS staff doing a valuable job saving lives.”

Meanwhile, BBC Scotland has published details of a new poll outlining voters top priorities ahead of May’s election for a new Scottish Parliament.

Key highlights include:

• The most important issue for voters was Labour’s pledge to halve to 2 weeks the time taken to see a cancer specialist and get results, followed by keeping the number of police on the streets, retaining free university tuition, greater spending on apprenticeships for young unemployed and reducing the council tax for households where all adults are pensioners;

• At the bottom of the list of priorities for Scottish voters is reforming the council tax in favour of a local income tax. Second from bottom was the SNP’s centre piece policy of holding a referendum on independence.

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