Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland nurses unable to attend to patients in their dying moments, says top nurses rep

The deputy director of the Royal College of Nursing has spoken of incidents where nurses are unable to care for patients in their dying moments due to pressure from staff shortages.

Speaking on the BBC's Nolan Show on Wednesday morning, Garrett Martin was responding to the news Northern Ireland's health regulator the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority had notified the health department of a serious nursing shortage in hospitals and community services.

"We have been raising this for a number of year and the impact on nurses obviously is significant," he said.

"The care episodes, when you talk about the impact of not having effective staffing levels, it is the duties that nurses carry out. Such as comforting patients and families when they are dying, in their last moments of life. Not being able to be there to provide that comfort."

Nolan responded to this by saying: "I don’t want this to be true. I don’t work within hospitals but I do not want it to be true."

Mr Martin added there would be "episodes of care left undone".

In a survey published by the Royal College of Nursing in 2017, more than 1,200 staff were asked to give an account of what their most recent shift had been like.

Responding, 55% said there was a shortfall in planned staffing on their shift, and 36% of respondents said due to lack of time they had to leave necessary patient care undone.

Mr Martin said this could include things like medicines not being administered on time, being unable to help patients with positioning, being unable to comfort families and not being able to complete records.

Addressing the nursing shortage, the SDLP's Mark H Durkan said: "The notice issued by RQIA today confirms what many people working in health and social care have known for a long time – we are in the middle of a very serious nursing shortage that is having an impact on care.

"The frontline health service staff that we have are working themselves to the point of exhaustion to maintain the current level of care they provide. Nurses, doctors and other staff are fully stretched and that isn’t a sustainable position in the long term."

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