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Worrying NHS staffing levels compromise patient care and make staff ill, survey reveals

A Unite survey revealed that staff shortages in the NHS directly impacted patient safety to a degree that “patient care has been compromised and unsafe”.

Among 3,000 Unite members working in a multitude of roles throughout the NHS in England, 48 per cent said that in the past year staffing levels in their area regularly reached a point which directly impacted patient safety.

The figures were even higher among frontline roles including paramedics and call handlers, with 57 per cent in ambulance trusts reporting that patient care was regularly compromised. The figure for nurses was at 59 per cent.

The survey also found that in the past 12 months, more than half of the respondents said they had considered leaving the NHS altogether, while a further 13 per cent had considered retiring.

Unite national lead officer Onay Kasab said: “NHS staff are dedicated to the health service but the chronic lack of staff, combined with low pay is making them ill and resulting in skilled, dedicated workers leaving in droves.”

Majority of staff reported being regularly stressed and tired at work

The survey also found that two thirds of respondents (66 per cent) recorded that they regularly felt stressed at work and over three quarters (76 per cent) said they were regularly tired at work.

An ambulance worker said: “We cannot get to patients as quickly as we should which compromises patient care. This leads to hospital admissions that could be avoided if we got to them in the target time. When we need back up on a job it is coming from very far away which compromises patient care.” 

“Workload increases and morale sinks, feel like a hamster on a never-ending treadmill,” another ambulance worker commented.  

The survey comes as Unite continues to escalate its industrial dispute after its members rejected the government’s pay offer. Its members will be asked whether they wish to take strike action over both the issue of pay and the recruitment and retention crisis that is the heart of the safe staffing issue.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The survey’s findings are stark. Everyday across England patients are being put in danger due to staff shortages.

“The current pay offer, in reality a real terms pay cut, has done nothing to address the recruitment and retention crisis that is undermining patient care. Rather than tackling the causes of the crisis, the government is missing in action.”

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