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Severe shortage of nurses in UK children’s intensive care units

Britain’s sickest children are being treated in intensive care units that are struggling with severe shortages of the specialist nurses needed to look after them, a report says.

The shortages in the UK’s 30 paediatric intensive care units (PICUs) are so severe that healthcare assistants are covering the work of nurses in an attempt to ensure that staffing levels are maintained.

Only one of the PICUs – at the James Cook University hospital in Middlesbrough – was found to have enough nurses to guarantee the standards of care expected. About 15,000 children and young people a year, often with life-threatening conditions, are cared for in PICUs.

Clinical standards that prevail in PICUs require them to ensure that seven nurses are on duty for each bed in a 24-hour cycle. However, the report by the Paediatric Intensive Care Audit Network (PICANet), a group of experts from Leicester and Leeds universities, found that 29 of the 30 had too few nurses to do that, and that all 30 had vacancies, sometimes large numbers of them.

“Parents will find this extremely alarming”, said Patricia Marquis, the Royal College of Nursing’s England director. “Most people wouldn’t believe that only one paediatric intensive care unit across the whole UK has enough staff to function properly, but this is the reality of the workforce crisis. Key roles in specialist nursing teams are lying vacant for years.”

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Source: The Guardian, 23 January 2022


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