Unbearable strain on the NHS – why the cuts can’t continue

Andrew Lansley was rightly criticised last year when he denied that staff numbers of nurses had been cut when speaking at the Royal College of Nursing. It is time that the government woke up and realised that the staffing cuts being forced on the NHS are completely unsustainable.

According to a report released by the Royal College of Nursing last year, 75% of nurses are so overworked that they can not even communicate with their patients let alone respond to their calls for help or fetch them food and water. Furthermore, it has been suggested that at times there is a ration on Britain’s hospital wards or 1 nurse to 18 patients which means that patients are being placed at severe risk.

The treatment of junior doctors is also a major concern. The European Working Hours Directive limited the working hours for such juniors to 48 hours per week. However, in light of pressure from superiors or the need to gain extra experience, such doctors are lying on timesheets in order to work more hours. In some cases, non-stop shifts of over 30 hours at a time are being worked in some instances meaning that inexperienced doctors are taking important decisions when are not in the right physical or mental condition.

With doctors and nurses working such ridiculous hours, it is hardly surprising that dangerous and even fatal clinical errors are made in the UK’s hospitals. Although the offer of ‘no win no fee’ legal fee agreements and the rising average age of the UK population are usually blamed for the rising number of clinical negligence compensation claims, actual medical errors are the problem. So, why are so many errors occurring? Quite simply it is because these nurses and doctors are stressed, tired, overworked and lacking supervision, which cuts have to be blamed for.

The lack of communication between senior government officials and managers in NHS trusts could cripple the NHS. Politicians for the most part have no medical experience and do not understand the pressures that medical professionals are under, so to assume that the remaining staff will simply be able to cope despite staffing cuts is frankly negligent. Government demands for trusts to find £20m worth of cuts have led cost-obsessed managers to limit the treatments available and reduce staff numbers which will only serve to endanger patients.

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