Monday, 22 Apr 2024

'Broken' and 'suicidal' nurses fear being dragged to court by NHS patients

Nurses fear being taken to court over the level of care they give to patients, the Royal College of Nursing has revealed.

General secretary Pat Cullen said the ‘bleak picture’ comes from right across the NHS as the union ramps up pressure on the Government to meet their ‘double-figure’ pay demands.

More than 500 specialist A&E nurses shared their experiences of overcrowded hospitals with the RCN before its annual congress in Brighton today.

Some nurses described themselves as ‘broken’ and feeling ‘suicidal’, and hit out at the ‘degrading’ necessity of treating patients in corridors.

Nine in 10 raised concerns about providing unsafe care and compromising patient dignity, privacy and confidentiality.

And six in 10 fear they will be struck off the nursing register or have a court case brought against them by patients.

One emergency care nurse said: ‘Caring for patients in corridors is destroying staff morale.

‘When you walk into the department and see 15-20 people in the queue, day in day out – you lose any hope it’s going to be a good shift.

‘We care for patients the best we can, but something happens every day. I’ve dealt with almost every situation I can imagine in the queue.

‘We’ve had to fit call bells and crash buzzers after people have had cardiac arrests in a corridor. Patients who are incontinent need pads changing but there’s no space or privacy to change them.

‘Patients and their relatives can sometimes be physically or verbally aggressive towards us because they are rightly scared and horrified about the setting they are being treated in. Some are then arrested or removed by security. There are delays to medication. The list goes on.

‘Having to care for patients in this way makes you feel you are a terrible nurse. Sadly I have become desensitised to it as I’ve been dealing with it for so long.

‘But unless something is done we will continue to lose brilliant nurses who are getting to breaking point.’

Nurses and doctors find themselves unable to discharge patients due to the lack of community care in place, the RCN says.

Bed capacity is also deemed to be at a dangerous level.

Ms Cullen said: ‘Patients backed-up through emergency departments is a stark sign of a health and care system grinding to a halt. A corridor is no place to die and no place to work either.

‘When ministers fail to grip this situation, they allow patients to pay a high price and nursing staff to work in fear, professionally compromised.

‘Governments must urgently plan and invest to reverse this new trend.

‘Our members have told us they’re so concerned about patient safety being compromised that they are fearing court cases against them.

‘While any decision around a court case would take into context the particular pressures that a nurse is working within, these fears are evidence of just how unsafe conditions have become.’

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