Nurse speaks out against Q.E. cuts
The quality of patient care is going to be seriously undermined at Birmingham's new Queen Elizabeth Hospital when its budget is cut by 17% over the next year, according to nurses working there.
Unison released figures showing that the hospital will lose £22.4 million in funding from the South Birmingham Primary Care Trust, leading to a reduction in elective surgery for heart, kidney, liver and spinal injuries and up to a 30% reduction in outpatients follow up visits (reported Birmingham Post, March 9th).
This has caused dismay amongst hospital staff and has prompted one nurse to speak out against what she sees as a dangerous threat to patient care.
Mary (not her real name) is a 28-year-old ward sister. She asked that her area of nursing not be revealed. She told me why the impending cuts are causing deep concern for her and her colleagues:
“This dramatic reduction in funding is inevitably going hit nurses hard. We're going to be overstretched and the bottom line is that patient care will suffer”.
“Overtime will be the first thing that is cut. This means that if a nurse doesn't turn up for a shift, I will be unable to call in a replacement: The nurses on duty will have to take up the slack. Because we are worked so hard, it is not uncommon for nurses to pick up bugs and to have to call in sick. And of course there is no question of allowing a nurse to treat seriously ill patients if they could potentially pass on an infection”.
“As it is, nurses tend to work 13-hour shifts, often getting only one short break, late-on in their shift. The wards are run as tightly as possible, in terms of the minimum amount of staff required to carry out all of our work, and it is difficult to imagine how this could be stretched any further. But I know that with these cuts, we certainly will be stretched further – much further”.
“As dedicated as nurses are to providing excellent care and as much as we take pride in our vocation, we are only human. We are worried about the effect these cuts will have on our ability to carry out our duties effectively. Every nurse knows that a reduction in resources can only lead to a reduction in the quality of care we are capable of providing”.
“Less effective patient care really goes against your every instinct as a nurse and as a professional. It's definitely something that is going to cause a lot of frustration. More so even than the increase to an already enormous workload”.
Of course, cuts anywhere across society are always going to be unpopular. But in the case of safeguarding the nation's health, it's difficult to see the justification for such severe cuts to funding. However you look at it, there's never been a worse time to get ill.