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Low Nursing Numbers Affecting Elderly Care

A new report by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has revealed that the low levels of nursing staff is seriously affecting care for the elderly in UK hospitals.

The report concluded that minimum staffing levels need to be improved, so that there is at least one nurse to every seven patients.

Research has suggested that the care is suffering at every level, from basic communication to care for the dying. 1,700 nurses were polled by the RCN, 240 of who work exclusively with the elderly.

Eight out of ten of those polled said that the staffing shortages meant basic care support like sitting and comforting patients had been compromised, while one third said they didn’t have time to properly assist with eating and drinking.

RCN’s review is just the latest in a long line of damning reports into care for the elderly, after the Patients Association and Care Quality Commission have also published studies which have called elderly care “shocking”.

General Secretary of the RCN Peter Carter said, "Despite working tirelessly to provide patients with high quality care, nurses in these settings have repeatedly told us that they are unable to do this because of pressures caused by short staffing."

However director of NHS Employment suggested that having minimum staffing levels would have a negative impact on care: "We do not believe that imposing a crude system of staffing ratios is the right way to tackle poor care.

"Arbitrary ratios could limit organisations' ability to plan care in a way that is best for the patient. The last thing we want is a minimum standard becoming a ceiling rather than a floor."

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