Nursing leaders warn of ‘unsustainable, untenable conditions’ in health and social care services

Nursing leaders have highlighted 10 pressures on health and social care services which they say have created “unsustainable, untenable” conditions.

A report from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said members working across health and social care in England dispute statements that the current situation in health and care is sustainable.

NHS hospital waiting times is listed as one of the 10 indicators with the report referring to this issue as “clearly a symptom of an unsustainable system”.

The report, which is called 10 Unsustainable Pressures on the Health and Care System in England, refers to “corridor care” – time spent on trolleys in hospital corridors before being admitted to a hospital bed.

“We are clear that delivery of care within inadequate environments such as that frequently referred to as ‘corridor care’ or ‘corridor nursing’ is fundamentally unsafe and must not be normalised,” the report says.

The 10 pressures also include high Covid-19 infection rates, NHS nursing workforce vacancy rate, social care workforce vacancies and NHS elective/community waiting times.

The report says: “Action needs to be taken to retain as many nursing staff as possible in light of serious staffing vacancies, as well as high levels of exhaustion and burnout.

“On top of this, the system is currently dealing with the immediate challenge of rising Covid-19 cases, intensified pressures as winter approaches and clearing the growing backlog of undelivered care to people in need.

“The RCN is clear that in England, the Government must take action to invest in a number of measures to develop a sustainable nursing workforce supply to meet the needs of the population now and in the longer term, and to ensure staffing for safe and effective care in all health and care settings.”

It adds: “The RCN has particularly identified 10 areas that currently demonstrate unsustainable, untenable conditions within the health and care system across England. All of these are reliant on nursing.”

RCN director for England, Patricia Marquis (pictured), said: “Speak to any nurse and they will tell you just how concerned they are for their patients as well as their colleagues.

“They have known for a long time just how the pressures have been growing and they can see the risk to patient care every single day in every part of health and care.

“This was coming long before the pandemic and is a direct consequence of a long-term failure to invest in the nursing workforce.

“Government must wake up to the reality and provide the investment that is needed to ensure patient care is not damaged any further.

“This starts by delivering a pay rise that recognises their skill and professionalism to prevent an exodus of experienced nurses and in the long term there must be a legal responsibility at ministerial level for delivering staffing for safe and effective health and care services.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “There are now record numbers of doctors and nurses working in the NHS and we are on track to deliver 50,000 more nurses by the end of this Parliament.

“Our record investment is helping to tackle the backlog and recover NHS services with an extra £2 billion this year, plus £8 billion more over the next three years to deliver an extra nine million checks, scans, and operations for patients across the country.

“To ensure this funding makes a lasting impact, the NHS is deploying more efficient, innovative ways of working and the latest technology to provide more appointments and treatments. This includes dedicated surgical hubs and community diagnostic centres to ramp up routine surgery.”

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