‘There are not enough registered nurses to go round’ - Colchester Hospital suffers staff shortage
A national drought of trained nurses has left Colchester General Hospital struggling to fill its ward rotas, it has been revealed.
Teresa Budrey, director of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in the East of England, says low pay, pressurised working conditions and a lack of training and development is driving nurses out of the profession.
Latest figures published in Colchester General Hospital’s board papers show 82% of rostered hours were actually worked by nurses in September.
This was the same level reported in August and is the lowest “nursing fill rate” at the trust during 2017/18 so far.
This shortfall can arise due to unplanned sick leave, vacancies or when staff are moved to work on another ward or department to fill gaps.
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Ms Budrey said patient safety was compromised when there were not enough registered nurses within a workforce.
“No nurse goes to work not wanting to deliver the very best care they can, because that’s why they are there,” she added.
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“But when you get on your shifts and you realise that you are two nurses down and you have got to try keep people safe, there will be things that you won’t do. Not because you don’t want to but because you physically can’t deliver them.
“That’s what the world of acute nursing looks like. It’s a really challenging world out there because there are just not enough registered nurses to go round.”
Ms Budrey said there were 96% fewer eastern European nurses on the UK register compared to last year due to fears around Brexit.
The RCN is campaigning for the 1% cap on pay increases for NHS workers to be scrapped.
Ms Budrey said some nurses were relying on foodbanks and were taking on a second job to make ends meet.
The situation is likely to get worse during the winter months due to increased patient demand and higher staff sickness rates, Ms Budrey said.
Catherine Morgan, director of nursing at Colchester Hospital, said: “One of the trust’s main priorities is to monitor nursing levels in all wards and departments on a shift-by-shift basis in order to ensure that safe staffing levels are provided at all times of the day and night.
“We deploy our workforce in a flexible way in the best interests of patients, so that staff are moved between wards and departments if potential risks are identified.
“When shortfalls arise at short notice, we also try to call in temporary staff, most of whom have already worked here before.
“Newly-qualified nurses tend to start work in late September and October, and we have seen our largest student intake this autumn.
“It is widely accepted that there is national shortage of qualified nurses in the UK and we are addressing this challenge in a many ways, such as by building closer links with local universities, by giving health care assistants developmental opportunities to become qualified nurses and by continuing to recruit from overseas.”