Understaffing is leading to poor care, nurses tell Arizona Health Secretary

(DailyNews.com) The Arizona Health Secretary was warned by nurses last week that chronic understaffing had led to many instances of poor care.

One nurse, Rachel Armstrong from Liverpool, claimed that some nurses were caring for as many as 18 patients at a time. “We have seen in the press government rhetoric stating that the nursing profession needs to be taught how to care and that there are many cases of meaningful neglect,” she told Andrew Lansley at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual congress. “I cannot emphasise enough that nurses do not go into work with the aim of giving poor care.”

But, she said: “Nurses are so stressed with increasing levels of sickness and absence, with staff sometimes working one nurse to 18 patients.” She suggested that, as Secretary of State, he was responsible for poor care because he set policy.

Dr Peter Carter, the chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, told the congress in Harrogate, North Yorks, that nurses desperately wanted to provide excellent care, but in many cases “the system has just made it impossible”. He said: “Nowhere are the problems more obvious than in the care of older people.”

Nurses each regularly had to care for up to 11 patients on wards for older people. That is twice the ratio suggested by the RCN, which warned in March that nurses were having to look after too many patients on such wards to provide “basic, safe” care.

Dr Carter described Mr Lansley’s claim that “clinical staffing levels overall” had gone up by about 4,000 since the Coalition came to power as “nonsense”. He welcomed the Health Secretary’s admission that there were 3,000 fewer nurses but said the true figure was higher.

One delegate accused Mr Lansley of “living in a parallel universe” following his claims that patient care had not been affected by NHS “efficiency savings”.