Local representatives from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have warned many nurses are ‘considering leaving’ the profession after a rise in pressure throughout the pandemic and are asking MPs to help promote safe staffing levels.
RCN senior officer Theresa Curry said: ‘We hear from nurses in Portsmouth who are exhausted and demoralised after months of working under unsustainable pressures. The sad reality is that many nurses, not just in Portsmouth but across the country, are at breaking point and considering leaving nursing.
‘While Covid has undoubtedly heightened issues with increased hospitalisations and soaring staffing absences, so many of the problems existed before the pandemic – not least the tens of thousands of nursing vacancies caused by a long-term lack of government investment in the workforce.
‘We know that trusts are working hard to put strategies in place to manage staff sickness absences and increases in demand. The RCN is on hand to support them to keep staff well being at the forefront of their plans, to make sure their staff are not being called on to work continuous shifts without adequate rest periods.’
It comes as data from NHS England revealed between November 29 and January 9, Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust (PHU) was running at an average of 96.8 per cent capacity, and above 99 per cent for two weeks.
This is above the 85 per cent considered by the NHS to be ‘too busy,’ and above the average for trusts across England of 91.9 per cent in that time.
The figures also showed between January 3 and 9, 31 per cent of ambulance handovers were delayed more than 30 minutes in Portsmouth - more than the national average of 22 per cent.
Chris Evans, chief operating officer and deputy chief executive at PHU, said: ‘We have continued to see an increasing number of patients attending our emergency department, partly through a rise of COVID-19 prevalence in our communities and the omicron variant. This urgent care demand, alongside our continued efforts to provide planned urgent and cancer care for those who need it most, as well as elective care, has put a huge amount of pressure on our inpatient beds.
‘We are working hard through a number of initiatives in our winter plan to reduce the delay in patients being admitted to the emergency department (ED) from an ambulance. This includes working closely with South Central Ambulance Service and other providers to identify ways we can reduce ambulance conveyances and the amount of time to handover to ED.’
As part of its plea for support RCN representatives have penned an open letter asking residents to write to MPs over the matter.
Within the signed by Jeremy Benton, RCN south east council member, Ali Upton, RCN south east board chair, and Dr Sheila Marriott, interim RCN south east regional director, it said: ‘Our members, providing frontline nursing care to patients under extremely challenging circumstances, are exhausted. They are aiming, as always, to provide the highest standards of safe and effective care at a time of high demand and staffing shortages.
‘While we all hope the pressures piled on by Covid-19 will soon start to subside again, the underlying workforce shortages, declining morale and unsustainable pressures will remain. In fact they are driving nursing staff to seriously consider leaving the job they love. It is now imperative that our political leaders act on the concerns raised by the RCN, our members and others working in health services.
‘Nursing staff don’t go into the profession to deliver care that they know is below the standard they want to provide and that patients and their families rightly expect, but they need the proper resources to deliver a high standard of care.’