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Risk of further deaths from nurse substitutes, study finds

Study has found a higher risk of patient deaths from new, less qualified nursing associate roles.


A recent report has shown that hospitals in England are increasingly recruiting lower grade medical staff, in order to save money. The study, published in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety, found that in some parts of the UK there are more nursing assistants than fully qualified nurses, while hospitals in England have, on average, 57% of their staff base made up by qualified nurses. This is much lower than in other European countries included in the study.

The researchers concluded that substituting qualified staff with lower-skilled medical assistants could be directly linked with higher death rates. This is in addition to poorer standards of care, often indicated by the occurrence of bedsores, urinary tract infections and falls, as well as general patient satisfaction.

Controversially, the government intends to introduce 2,000 new support roles, with 1,000 beginning training next month. The new nursing associates are intended to be a compromise between nurses and healthcare assistants, and will be expected to provide general patient care as well as administering controlled drugs and some invasive procedures, after just two years of training. Their fully qualified counterparts must undergo three years of training in order to carry out these tasks.

The Department of Health insists that these roles will ‘complement, not replace, existing fully-qualified registered nurses and nursing care support workers.’ They feel that by introducing these roles it will ease the pressure on the qualified nurses, allowing them to ‘make the best use of their time in providing outstanding patient care.’

Professor Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, director of nursing at Health Education England, is in favour of the proposals, saying that the nursing associated will have the ‘potential to transform the nursing and care workforce.’

However, shadow health minister Justin Madders, feels the report is ‘deeply concerning’ and ‘a lack of skilled nurses is putting patients at risk.’ The survey concluded by saying that ‘the erosion of nursing skills mix could negatively impact overall quality and safety of care…the consequences can be life threatening for patients.’

If you have suffered as a result of poor care from the NHS, we are here to help. Swain and Co have an advanced Clinical Negligence department who regularly deal with clients who have received substandard medical treatment. If you, a family member or friend has received substandard medical treatment, contact our team on 02392 483322.

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