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The old neglected again

Older patients are “not safe” on hospital wards in Scotland because of a lack of qualified nurses to care for them according to Royal College of Nursing (RCN) findings. The report suggests there is just one nurse caring for nearly ten patients on old people’s wards. A survey of almost 1,700 nurses found that 78 per cent said comforting and talking to patients was not done or done inadequately on their last shift because of low staff numbers. Some 59 per cent said promoting mobility and self-care was left undone or unfinished, with 34 per cent saying they could not provide patients with food and drink, and 33 per cent claiming they were unable to fully help patients to the toilet or manage incontinence.

The RCN warned there was a danger that “care becomes compromised” and said that many nurses say “they are too busy to provide the standard of care they would like”. The report said: “Older people in Scotland are being let down by a lack of professionally qualified nurses in hospitals, despite nationally agreed planning for the nursing workforce. Despite older people often having the most complex needs, the evidence suggests that they regularly suffer from a severe shortage of nurses and healthcare support workers (HCSWs), coupled with an inappropriate skill mix of HCSWs to nurses."
The RCN called for a “patient guarantee” to set out the number of nurses needed on older people’s wards.

It emerged the number of nurses in Scotland’s hospitals plummeted by thousands in just over two years, with further nursing posts lost during the last few months of 2011. The RCN said the number of nursing and midwifery staff employed in Scotland had fallen by 2,190 between September 2009 and the end of 2011.

According to the RCN Scotland director, Theresa Fyffe, the number of nurses employed was at a six-year low. She said: “As health boards come under increasing financial pressure to deliver the same services to more and more people, they are saving money when nurses leave by not replacing them or by replacing them with nurses and healthcare support workers at lower-paid bands."

The charity Age Scotland demanded dramatic improvements to care services in the community, to keep older people “safe and out of hospital”.

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