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Posted on 14th March 2017

Nursing shortages is leaving patients to die suffering

The think tank, King’s Fund, have warned that people at the end of their life are being left for hours at a time without the pain relief they need, due to nursing shortages.

They looked at sexual health services, district nursing, planned hip operations and neonatal care, all areas which have been subjected to rationing of funds and where patient care has been affected.

The report found that district nursing services are under “significant financial pressure”. Funding in this area is either static or reducing, despite the rising need for the care of people in their home.

District nurses care for people who are housebound, suffering long term illnesses, or who are at the end of their life, and their numbers are in decline.

Between 2000 and 2014 the number of district nurses half by 50 per cent. Between 2014 and 2016 the numbers fell by another 15 per cent.

One hospice manager told the King's Fund: "The district nurses working at night are not able to give effective response times.

"You can wait up to eight hours... for patients experiencing pain and discomfort in the last two to three days of their life, it has a massive impact."

The rising pressures of services means that patients are waiting longer for common procedures. The average waiting time for a hip operation is now 14 weeks. This is a week longer than just 12 months ago.

Lead author Ruth Robertson said: “Longer waiting times for hospital treatment and restrictions to operations are just one small part of the picture. Our research shows that services like district nursing and sexual health, where we found evidence that access and quality are deteriorating for some patients, have been hardest hit by the financial pressures facing the NHS but that this is often going unseen.”

“Staff across the NHS are working hard to maintain service quality and protect patients in the face of growing pressures,” she said. “This is not sustainable and is particularly worrying given the well-established link between staff wellbeing and the quality of patient care.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Blanket restrictions on treatment are unacceptable – but the NHS is now doing 5,000 more operations every day compared to 2010, so accusations of inappropriate rationing are misplaced.

“We’re investing £10 billion to fund the NHS’s own plan for the future, supported by an immediate cash injection of £2bn for social care and £100m for A&E to help to improve care in the community and ease the pressure on hospitals.”

Janet Davies, General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “This report lifts the lid on the dangers of trying to provide nursing care on the cheap. Patients waiting for district nurses at home are being let down as the funding pressures bite.

“Nursing staff are straining to hold things together for their patients but they can only hold the fort for so long," she said.

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