doctorThe UK’s largest health union, UNISON, is challenging the Government over its refusal to implement the introduction of minimum staff to patient ratios.

It claims that the life-saving initiative would dramatically change life on the wards for patients and staff, providing a safer, more caring environment for all.

A new survey from the union of more than 1,500 nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants backs up this call, revealing that 45% of respondents were looking after eight or more patients on their shift.

The survey also revealed that almost 20% of respondents described care failings in their organisations as being on a par with the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.

Christina McAnea, UNISON Head of Health, said:

“This survey exposes a health service under severe strain, where nurses are struggling to deliver the high levels of care that they set themselves on a daily basis. On this typical day many staff worked through their break and stayed after their shift – but this still did not give them enough time to complete all their tasks.

“The hidden voice in the survey must surely be that of the patient who is not getting the level of care they are entitled to expect.”

She went onto say:

“The Government cannot escape its responsibilities to the NHS by pointing the finger at staff or managers. Trusts are not being given the finance they need to deliver a growing and complex health service that demands highly expensive equipment, high-tech treatment and costly drugs.

“Government cuts are making matters worse by reducing staff, including nurses, at a time when patient demand is growing. Introducing minimum nurse to patient ratios would provide a safety net of care, restore public confidence and show nursing staff they are respected and valued.”

The survey, conducted on 5 March 2013, also revealed that almost two thirds of staff do not have enough time with each patient, while nearly 60% said they did not have enough time to deliver safe, dignified and compassionate patient care.

It also found that 55.7% worked overtime and that three out of five skipped breaks.

Highlighting the overwhelmingly support for setting minimum nurse-to-patient rations, 85% of respondents said they want to see this introduced to legislation.