Some nurses are leaving shifts worried whether they have given patients the right care, while others feel the standard they can deliver is not good enough, because of severe and worsening staff shortages, a Royal College of Nursing leader has told.
Speaking at the picket line on the grounds of University Hospital Wales today, RCN Wales associate director of nursing Nicky Hughes told Nursing Times her “biggest concern was that we won’t have a [nursing] profession in the coming years” because of recruitment and retention issues.
“I think the biggest concern is that we won’t have a profession in the coming years”
Today marked the second day of strike action held by the RCN across Wales, England and Northern Ireland as part of an ongoing row with ministers over pay.
In an interview with Nursing Times, Ms Hughes highlighted that nurses “haven’t had any pay rise that has kept up with inflation” for the last decade.
But while nurse pay is a cause for concern and the RCN wants to see nurses given a 5% above inflation rise this year, Ms Hughes said the “bigger issue” for members was patient safety.
Almost 3,000 nurse vacancies in the NHS in Wales meant patients were “coming to harm”, said Ms Hughes.
“And that’s really why we are seeing all the nurses that are out on that picket line today and back on [last] Thursday – it’s trying to make safe patient care,” she added.
“Because unless people are valued for what they do, and unless people recognise the skill and expertise and the knowledge that they have got, then people are leaving.”
Nurses had told the RCN they were going home “worried” and “crying” because of poor staffing levels.
“Then they worry about not only their patients, obviously, but about their registration”
“They don’t know whether they’ve given the right care through that day,” she said.
“They’ve given the utmost care that they could for those patients, but they don’t feel that the standard that they can deliver, with the resources that they’ve got, are enough.
“Then they worry about not only their patients, obviously, but about their registration.”
She added: “I think the biggest concern is that we won’t have a profession in the coming years.
“We’ve got a huge amount of vacancies in Wales and if we continue to lose nurses at this pace, then the nursing profession, in terms of the NHS, is going to be nil.”
Analysis from RCN Wales suggested nurse vacancies in the NHS had jumped almost 70% in the last year.
Nurses in Cardiff have also told Nursing Times today about their concerns for the profession and why they decided to take strike action this month.
A common theme in the Welsh capital was that nurses wanted to take action for the “future generations” of the workforce.