UNISON Northern Ireland

Serious Nursing Shortage – NI Health Regulator

Northern Ireland's health regulator has formally notified the health department there is a serious nursing shortage across hospital and community services.

It is the first time the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority has issued such a notice.

It was its duty to inform the department, it said, after identifying a number of failings in almost every area it had inspected.

It noted a reliance on agency and bank nursing staff which it said was due to a shortage of permanent staff.

This was impacting on the continuity of nursing care delivery in Northern Ireland.

According to Olive Macleod, the RQIA's chief executive, the effect was leading to "less effective care for patients."

“This is a significant message for the Department of Health. We as the regulator inspect health and social care organisations across Northern Ireland and where we find failings or there are concerns we must flag it to the department, and on this occasion we did flag it.

"We are beginning to see big gaps in rotas and nursing home settings and this potentially will have an impact on care."

The RQIA said there were worrying themes arising from five inspections of hospitals and nursing homes.

An inspection report said this had a knock-on effect, including low morale among staff, which was impacting on sickness levels, levels of staff training, appraisal and supervision.

Inspectors said the cumulative effect was leading, in some cases, to less effective care being provided for patients.

Responding, UNISON NI Nursing Forum representing more than 10,000 in the nursing workforce welcomed this strong intervention.

Joint chairs, Michelle McDonald and Alan Philson confirmed that UNISON has been warning that patient safety issues are increasing and the burden on existing staff is rising.

Transformation as called for in “Delivering Together” cannot be stalled indefinitely because we have no Minister in place. The Health Partnership Forum re-established by the last Minister, should be reconvened and this issue brought to the table without delay.