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Patient safety at risk in England unless nurse numbers increase, RCN warns

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The shortage of nursing staff in England is putting patient safety at risk, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned, as it launched a new campaign to encourage the public to speak out about the impact of England’s 40,000 nurse shortage. 

The RCN’s campaign calls for legislation to be brought forward in England to help address the nursing workforce crisis. Earlier this year, nurses and support workers in Scotland secured new legislation on safe staffing levels, and a nurse staffing law was introduced in Wales in 2016.

The 2013 Francis Report on failings of care at Stafford Hospital concluded that the main factor responsible was a significant shortage of nurses at the hospital.  Nurse numbers at NHS acute Trusts across England then increased as managers took steps to try to prevent similar scandals in the future. But a new analysis by the RCN shows that for every one extra nurse NHS acute Trusts in England have managed to recruit in the five years since 2013/14, there were 157 extra admissions to hospital as emergencies or for planned treatment. 

Commenting on the campaign launch, Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary, said: “Today we’re issuing a stark warning that patient safety is being endangered by nursing shortages.  Staffing shortfalls are never simply numbers on a spreadsheet – they affect real patients in real communities."

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Source: Ekklesia, 22 September 2019

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