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Patient safety compromised at hospitals

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NHS Trusts fill nurse vacancies with non-nurses

NHS Trusts in England are recruiting unqualified people to fill the growing number of nursing vacancies within the NHS.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned that this compromises patient safety and could increase death rates in hospitals and result in worse outcomes for patients.

In England there are around 35,000 unfilled nursing vacancies. The RCN found that some NHS Trusts were advertising posts such as ward matrons open to non-nurses who do not need to be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council provided they were registered with another regulator.

Pat Cullen, Chief executive of the RCN said: “Filling registered nurse vacancies with those who are not registered nurses is not filling those vacancies. Acting in this way not only leads to vacancies elsewhere but also carries a risk to patient care”.

The Independent recently reported that a post was advertised on Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s website, recruiting for an acute medicine ward matron which was open to applicants without a nursing qualification.

The Trust also advertised for a nurse or nursing associate to work in an ophthalmology ward where staff would be responsible for “the assessment and planning of care” and would be “responsible for the clinical area in the absence of a more senior nurse”.

The RCN said that the practice of substituting nurses was disregarding the evidence on safety and the years of education and training of degree level nurses. Registered nurses have undergone a three-year training course which makes them qualified to assess, lead and plan person-centred care for patients, whilst nursing associates have undergone a two-year training course.

NHS England’s chief executive Sir Simon Stevens and chief nurse Ruth May both said that nurses should not be substituted by non-nurses.

The medical negligence team at Bell Lax Solicitors are concerned that filling nursing posts with individuals who are not adequately qualified could be detrimental to patient care and safety. It is crucial to have the correct skills and expertise in health care to ensure safe and good quality care.


If you have concerns regarding treatment that you have received whilst in hospital, contact our medical negligence team for helpful advice on 0121 355 0011.