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Nurses warn of staff shortage impact at Belfast conference

Nursing staff are being forced to choose between finishing paperwork and treating patients, as the chronic staff shortages in the NHS continue to hamper the care staff can give, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned.

Around 5,000 delegates are attending the RCN congress at Belfast's Waterfront this week, the largest to be held in the new £29.5m international conference centre since its unveiling in 2016.

It is expected to bring almost £5m into the local economy.

In a major report on nurse morale, the RCN says the profession is "on the brink", with the 43,000 vacant full-time nursing posts across the UK hampering their ability to do the job to the best of their ability.

The shortage is a major source of public concern as well, with a YouGov poll of the public revealing 74% of people think there are not enough nurses to run the health service safely - and addressing this was their top priority for the NHS.

"We warned this would happen, but were called scaremongers," chief executive Janet Davies is expected to say of the damage caused by government pay restraint policies.

In her speech to open the RCN's annual congress yesterday she is calling for safe nurse staffing levels to be enforced by law in every part of the UK.

Wales, in 2016, became the first country in Europe to have a legal duty for health boards to employ enough nurses, record staffing levels and take action against breaches.

The Scottish government has pledged similar measures but there are no such moves in England and Northern Ireland.

For its report the RCN surveyed 30,000 nursing staff, many of who explained how the current shortages were affecting them.

Some of the main concerns identified were that a lack of time means fundamentals of personal and patient care are not carried out, with nurses unable to find time to wash patients or get them back into bed.

The burden of paperwork and auditing, a major part of this government's drive to make the NHS the safest and most transparent health service in the world through data monitoring, is another burden.

"Respondents described having to make difficult choices when there are shortages of registered nurses, between completing paperwork and providing care," the report says.

Nurses also raised concerns about the lack of time to discuss patients' care needs and next steps with love ones and relatives, and the shifting make up of the workforce.

Belfast Telegraph