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Pressure Sore Claims & the shortage of Nurses in NHS Hospitals

The Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, was given a rough ride by nurses at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual conference. Apparently his claims were greeted with derision, heckling and shouts of ‘liar’. The issue which upset the nurses was a claim that the number of clinical staff had increased in the NHS since the government came to power in 2010 where The RCN’s evidence suggests cuts to 61,113 posts. Mr Lansley accepts however that nursing numbers have fallen by 3,000.
Falling nursing numbers are a cause for concern and there is evidence that patients are suffering harm as a result. Acting for people who have suffered avoidable medical accidents, I see 3 areas in particular where lack of nursing care causes harm.
The first is patients who develop Pressure Ulcers either because they have not undergone a proper assessment or inadequate measures have been taken to avoid them. Preventing Pressure Sore Claims is normally relatively straightforward but it can only be done if there are enough nurses to provide proper care.
The second is failures to notice patients deteriorating because observations (temperature, blood pressure, pulse and oxygen saturations) are not done or the significance of findings missed. In some tragic cases, staff have missed early warning signs of Sepsis and as a result the patient has either died or had a Stroke. Again these are mistakes that should not happen but with nurses under enormous pressure on the wards they do.
The third is mistakes in giving medication – giving the wrong pills or giving the wrong dose. Again, mistakes can be tragic.
Most of our nurses are dedicated professionals doing a good job. Sometimes their care falls short of what we should expect simply because too few people are trying to do too much. However with nursing numbers falling it is hard to see things changing and I expect to see people injured unnecessarily in the very place they expect to receive the best care.