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Patients at Risk Where Untrained Staff Replace Nurses

By Principal Lawyer, Clinical Negligence

A study by the University of Southampton has found that NHS patients are a fifth more likely to die on wards where nurses have been replaced by untrained staff.

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The research, found that replacing one nurse with an untrained employee increases the chance of dying on a typical ward by 21 per cent. A 10 per cent increase in qualified nurses on a ward reduces the risk of death by 11 per cent with an increase in patient satisfaction.

The results were based on research in adult acute care hospitals in six European countries, including England and the Republic of Ireland. The findings of the study have emerged prior to the first 1,000 ‘nursing associates’ due to work in NHS hospitals in England start their training next month.

Using nursing assistants to replace skilled and experienced nurses is a false economy and we agree with the concerns expressed by the Royal College of Nurses that this course of action is potentially catastrophic for NHS patients.

These new positions have been created in a bid to support qualified nurses by relieving them of some of the more routine tasks such as checking blood pressure and administering drugs.

They have been welcomed by some of the most senior nurses in the country.

But this study reinforces our experience, namely that using nursing assistants to replace skilled and experienced nurses is a false economy and we agree with the concerns expressed by the Royal College of Nurses that this course of action is potentially catastrophic for NHS patients.

The shortage of 20,000 nurses in the NHS undoubtedly impacts on the care provided. We have numerous examples where low staffing levels or staffing by under-qualified staff has led to poor outcomes, including failure to undertake and record proper observations and failure to act on reported blood tests resulting in missed diagnosis or death. Prof Peter Griffiths, of Southampton University, told the BBC: “Our study suggests that the NHS needs to focus on achieving safe registered nurse staffing levels as a means to achieve better outcomes including improving patients' satisfaction with their care.”

Last month a study for the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) of more than 2,700 midwives revealed some were looking after up to 15 mothers and babies at the same time and working 12-hour shifts without a break. Midwives also reported not being listened to when raising concerns for the safety of mothers and babies and feared making “tragic” mistakes. Read more on the report here.

Lindsay Holt is a principal lawyer specialising in clinical negligence and healthcare law at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester.

The clinical negligence solicitors at Slater and Gordon specialise in claims against the NHS, GPs, private doctors and hospitals arising out of negligent medical treatment and acts on behalf of injured victims.

For a free consultation about a clinical or medical negligence compensation claim call us 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9049 or contact us online and we will call you.

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