Concerning Reports on numbers of Nurses and Midwives

5th July 2017 Clinical Negligence

It has been widely reported this week, including in the BBC, that Nursing and Midwifery Council figures have shown that more nurses and midwives are leaving the profession in the UK than are joining it, for the first time since 2008.

Whilst many may be quick to assume that the uncertainty over Brexit might provide an explanation for this downward trend, with fewer foreign-qualified nurses registering in the UK, the reduction in numbers is actually most pronounced among British workers.

The main reasons given by those leaving the profession, other than retirement, were concerns over staffing levels and workload, as well as disillusionment over the quality of care which can be provided. Poor pay and benefits was another reason.

Whatever the explanation for such high numbers of nurses and midwives leaving the profession, it gives a worrying indication of the care patients can expect in NHS hospitals. With increasingly low staff levels, the workload will only increase for those left behind and it is inevitable that patient care will be affected.

In addition, Trusts will be forced to look to fill the gaps with temporary or agency staff. I am currently acting for the families of two patients who very sadly died following poor care received from agency or locum staff. Unfortunately, temporary staff are often unable to access systems and records or are unaware of the Trust or particular ward's protocols and policies, which can lead to serious errors in patient care. Whilst the individual clinician may be very good, the care they are able to provide is hampered by their inexperience of the systems in place. Sadly, in both of my cases, that poor care contributed to the death of both patients.

With public sector pay and the future of the NHS currently very high on the political agenda, we have to hope that the worrying trend of nurses and midwives leaving the profession in droves will soon turn around.

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Liz Davies is an Associate Solicitor located in Manchesterin our Clinical Negligence department

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