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Critical nursing shortages leave patients unsafe, analysis shows

01 Jul 2024 3 minute read
NHS nurses at work. Picture by Victoria Jones / PA Wire.

Severe workforce shortages in hospitals and community services across Wales are leading to patients experiencing pain and, in many cases, being cared for in corridors.

Today, the Royal College of Nursing in Wales (RCN) revealed that less than a quarter of all shifts in Wales have sufficient registered nurses.

Shortages mean individual nursing staff are often caring for more patients than what is safely recommended.


The RCN has released its latest ‘Last Shift’ survey results which asked nursing staff in Wales about their experiences on their most recent shift.

Nearly 8 in 10 respondents (78%) in Wales reported that the number of nursing staff was not sufficient to meet the needs of patients safely.

Also, more than 8 in 10 respondents (83%) believe that the staffing levels on their last shift/day at work would have been made safer if there was a maximum patient to nurse ratio in their workplace.

One respondent working in an NHS hospital in Wales said “we are just providing very basic care due to our environment [and] staff patient ratio. Most of the falls happening in the ward [are] because of staff shortage … we can’t provide a quality of care.”

“Critical levels”

Helen Whyley, Executive Director of RCN Wales, said:” These results are sadly not surprising. It’s a matter of public record that 1,097 NHS Wales beds were cut between 2012 and 2022 – almost a tenth of its capacity.

“The nursing staffing crisis in Wales has reached critical levels and its endangering patient safety. Low nurse-to-patient ratios are directly linked to increased patient mortality.

Under the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016, health boards and NHS trusts in Wales are legally responsible for nurse staffing levels in all their services. On some wards the law requires the staffing level to be set and maintained. Yet at our last estimate, there were 2,717 registered nurse vacancies across NHS Wales.”

“The Welsh Government needs to step up to the challenge and extend this Act to protect all patients. It is then critical that nurses are valued and rewarded if there is to be a sustained supply to meet those staffing levels.

“This means delivering every promise made to our members that ended our industrial action. The solution to this crisis starts with valuing nursing staff and giving them the time to care.”


A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We greatly value the nursing workforce in Wales and the vital work they do.

“We remain committed to providing the NHS with the workforce it needs, and this year we are investing £281m to increase the number of training places.

“Our National Workforce Implementation Plan sets out actions to improve retention, including improving staff wellbeing, and continued investment in education and training.

“We have continued to work in social partnership with all health trade unions and NHS Wales Employers to deliver the non-pay elements as agreed as part of the 23/24 pay offer which includes improved access to flexible working arrangements.”

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
13 days ago

‘Hydration’ or the lack of it stalks those wards with the grim reaper in its footsteps…

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