Nursing shortage is NHS Wales’ ‘biggest challenge’

By Chris Betteley   |   Reporter   |
Sunday 22nd May 2022 1:04 pm
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A shortage of nurses has been highlighted in a report by the Royal College of Nursing Wales

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A SHORTAGE of nurses is “jeopardising patient safety” as a Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Wales warned that low nurse staffing levels can increase mortality by more than a quarter.

RCN Wales launched its second report around both the progress and challenges in implementing the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016 last week.

The group has been calling for the law that enshrines the duty of a minimum safe staffing level for nursing for medical and surgical inpatient wards in hospitals to be expanded.

In a report released ahead of International Nursing Day last week, RCN Wales estimated there are currently at least 1,719 full-time equivalent registered nurse vacancies in NHS Wales.

The report said the “biggest challenge” to safe staffing legislation was “the sustainability of the nursing workforce”.

It warned there were “far more nurses leaving the NHS than can be matched by newly qualified nurses or internationally recruited nurses” and accused the Welsh Government of taking “no action” since its last report in 2019 to address this.

report from the organisation states that low nurse staffing levels can increase mortality by 26 per cent and led to adverse patient experiences.

The report found that NHS Wales spends £69m on agency nurses each year, the equivalent salary of 2,691 newly qualified nurses and that every week, nurses work an extra 34,284 hours in overtime.

Montgomeryshire MS and Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said: “Nurses are the lifeblood of our NHS – they not only provide patients with the care they need, but that vital compassion and understanding which has made this public service so beloved.

“Therefore, I was delighted the RCN launched the campaign for safe nurse staffing levels last year, so am disappointed that we have reached International Nurses Day six months later with the Labour Government having done nothing.

“The new RCN report that found that low nurse staffing levels can increase the chances of death by a quarter should be a wake-up call for the Health Minister to do something.”

The Welsh Government said that it had introduced the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act to “ensure people in Wales have access to safe, high-quality standards of care.”

It said the shortage of nurses was “an issue being experienced globally and is something that we are committed to addressing” through workforce planning, recruitment and retention and “standardised programmes” for clinical supervision and preceptorship.

The Welsh Government added that the “number of registered nurses in Wales continues to increase and training places have risen by 68 per cent over the last five years”.

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