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More nurses needed to help NHS navigate growing issues

Tuesday 30th August 2016
NHS problems are growing, according to the Patients Association, meaning more nurses will be needed to help navigate these issues. Image: monkeybusinessimages via iStock
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    More nurses are needed to help the NHS navigate its way through what the Patients Association believes are 'growing' problems.

    Inadequate staffing levels in UK hospitals are leading to increasing issues, but with bigger recruitment budgets and by encouraging more people to work in the medical sector, many of these problems could be ironed out.

    What issues need ironing out?

    The Patients Association has published a new report entitled Feeling the Wait, which reveals that waiting times for operations and other routine procedures are getting worse throughout Britain.

    Based on the findings of 112 Freedom of Information requests submitted to hospital trusts across the UK, the report shows that there was an 80 per cent rise in the number of patients waiting for hip or knee surgery for 18 weeks or longer between 2014 and 2015.

    In addition, each hospital trust cancelled an average of 753 procedures on the day they were due to go ahead last year, with issues such as staff shortages, a lack of available beds and scheduling errors cited as the main reasons behind these cancellations. One trust called off a total of 3,269 operations during the 12-month period.

    The report also showed that the average waiting time for minor procedures including hernia surgery, hip and knee replacements, adenoid surgery and tonsil removal came in at over 100 days per patient, with no clear signs of improvement on the horizon, unless serious action is taken to improve staffing levels and resources across the NHS.

    Could removing NHS targets help?

    There has been much speculation in the British media in recent months that health secretary Jeremy Hunt may get rid of some of the targets placed on the NHS, as this move could prevent the health service from being deemed as failing due to government-imposed metrics.

    However, the Patients Association does not believe that removing targets is the best solution for the NHS. Instead, encouraging more people to enter the nursing profession to ensure staffing levels are adequate and the best possible standards of care can be provided may be a better answer.

    Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, stated: "Overall, with the significant jump in waiting times, we are very concerned that relaxing the rules on waiting time targets - as recently reported - will only exacerbate an already unacceptable situation for patients.

    "From the patient's perspective, nothing positive can come from taking away NHS targets - it just means people could be waiting even longer, as there will be little incentive for NHS providers to focus on efficiency."

    What does this mean for nurses?

    Nurses, and indeed other medical staff, are likely to be in higher demand as the NHS navigates these problems, providing their expertise to help provide the best standard of treatment possible, potentially saving people's lives along the way.

    Significantly larger recruitment budgets are needed for this to become possible though, although efforts are in place to encourage more younger people to embark on a career in nursing - after all, there aren't many careers more rewarding than helping to save people's lives every day.

    Written by James Puckle

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