Blog: Hospitals are stretched and NHS staff are under increasing pressure

We all know that our NHS is under real pressure. Whether we work in the health service, or rely on it to care for us and our loved ones, we can see the strain it’s under.

So when the BBC reported this week that nine out of 10 hospitals are overcrowded, I wasn’t surprised – and I doubt many UNISON members were either. Because while the health service hasn’t faced the same cuts that many public services (especially local government) have in recent years, there’s still been a catastrophic failure to invest at a time when the NHS is coming under increasing pressure.

The abject failure to solve the social care crisis – cutting funding at a time when our ageing population needs more support, not less – only serves to further exacerbate the pressure our health service faces.

Added to this there’s the fallout from the government’s damaging decision to axe the NHS bursary – which is already hitting applications to nursing and other healthcare courses – and you can rapidly see the sheer scale and scope of what health workers are facing.

That’s one reason why UNISON members who are nurses spent today keeping track of their workplace on the sixth annual safe staffing day.

We asked members to record:

  • the length of their shift;
  • if they worked any overtime;
  • the number of patients and nurses on their shift;
  • whether they were able to take some or all of their breaks;
  • the percentage of their shift spent working face-to-face with patients;
  • the number of bank and/or agency staff;
  • and whether their workplace has a set staffing ratio.

At a time when hospitals are stretched and NHS staff are under increasing pressure, I’ll be carefully examining the responses we receive – and making our voices heard on behalf of patients and staff alike.