NHS mortality rates rise at night due to pressures on nurses

17 April 2014

NHS mortality rates rise at night due to pressures on nurses

Union warns of ‘another Mid-Staffs’ in damning report

Union chiefs are warning of another horrific Mid-Staffordshire inspired disaster within the NHS due to overstretched hospitals being completely unable to sustain patient safety in light of extreme NHS cuts.

Nurses have been pin pointed as a particularly vulnerable area with current resourcing stretched to breaking point. Unision has warned that “We need urgent action.”

A survey by Unison discovered that almost 60% of nurses on night shifts in hospitals cannot deliver proper care to patients because of the savage impact of cuts. Unions have warned David Cameron that further NHS cuts will only place the lives of more patients at risk; the chronic shortage of nurses is making it more probable that mortality rates in wards can only rise: with low staffed night shifts becoming ripe for compromised levels of patient safety as a result, leading to the high probability of cases of medical negligence and medical mistreatment.

"We need urgent action"

Since 2010 the Tory-led Coalition has cut 5,000 nursing posts since 2010. The report undertaken by the union Unison, called Running on Empty, is warning that the low staffing during the nights mean that wards are simply unable to cope with patients if their conditions suddenly deteriorate or an emergency arises.

This raises the question of legal ratios for nurses to patients which has been often raised as a measure should be made binding. This is because nurses have to look after far more patients than they are equipped to handle.

With experts maintaining that it is unsafe for one nurse to look after more than eight patients, Unison is warning the reality is far more worrying with nurses having to deal with up to 12 patients-a problem made far worse during night shifts where stripped down nursing wards are under pressure from patient demands.

Pressures increase risk of medical negligence

The Running On Empty report was published at Unison’s health conference in Brighton and sent out a clear warning that these shortages directly jeopardised the health of vulnerable patients who could be properly monitored at night to see if their condition was ­deteriorating or their needs were properly met.

Nurses were not singled for blame in any shape or form but the stark realities were obvious as nurses were working through breaks, staying longer to look after patients. Yet it is only human and normal for resources to tire and be stretched to such a breaking points that avoidable errors and mistakes seem inevitable when they should not be.

Figures show each nurse in England has to look after an average 8.8 patients.

In Norway the average is only 5.2 and Ireland 6.9.

Unison was stark in its warning that the issue of nurse resourcing must be dealt with to avoid the calamity of another Mid Staffs, stating:

“One of the most damaging findings of this survey is how little has changed since last year.

"Despite all the Government rhetoric, despite the Francis, Keogh and Cavendish reports, the spectre of another Mid Staffs still looms large over the NHS.

Patients still at risk

“Progress on safe staffing levels has been glacial and that means poorer care and patients still at risk.

“It’s clear that despite nurses working through breaks and beyond their hours, they do not have enough time to give patients the care and attention they need.

"That is distressing for patients and staff.”

Mistreatment.com has seen in previous cases we have handled that there is a high degree of linkage between high hospital death rates and staff shortages and this is mirrored by both Unison’s report and research from the esteemed Lancet publication which presented data that on 420,000 patients in nine European ­countries showing that every extra bed added to a nurse’s ­workload and worrying raised the risk of dying within a month of surgery by 7%.

With the RCN warning that the NHS was short of some 20,000 nurses in November of last year and that one in 20 posts remained unfilled purely because of government cuts, Unison’s report reinforces the risk of medical negligence and medical mistreatment in wards when both should be completely avoidable.

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Mistreatment.com has a number of specialist departments which deal with enquiries relating to a variety of medical health complaints and medical related negligence areas. Mistreatment.com was created to listen to talk to people who feel that they had nobody at the NHS to listen to them when something went wrong. Members of the public who call through to us often want to raise an issue within NHS care so that somebody else is not affected the way their and their loved ones have been.

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