A staffing crisis in the NHS means patients are being put at risk on hospital wards facing alarming shortfalls in the number of nurses they need, it is claimed.
The warning has been made by a union representing thousands of nurses in the region as figures reveal the scale of the recruitment challenge facing NHS hospitals.
The Government has been accused of failing to properly invest in nurse training after NHS trusts in England ended 2017-18 with more than 92,000 staff vacancies.
Figures from NHS Digital show that in March this year, there were 2,300 fewer NHS nurses and community health visitors working in Yorkshire and Humber than in 2009.
Staffing reports from hospitals in the region also show nurses and staff have been raising safety alerts over missed checks on patients.
Nursing leaders have warned that the staffing shortfalls mean patients are at risk of being injured from falls and developing pressures sores.
Glenn Turp, the Royal College of Nursing’s Yorkshire and Humber Regional Director, said: “It’s a direct consequence of a failure by the government to invest in nursing education.
“The result of that is that patients are at risk every single day if you don’t have the appropriate number of skilled nurses. Staff themselves are at risk. They are at risk form the impact on their own physical and mental health.
“I’m not convinced that patients and relatives fully understand what level of risk they face in organisations that acknowledge that they don’t have the levels of healthcare professionals they believe they need to give adequate care.”
NHS trusts struggling to recruit enough staff include Wakefield-based Mid Yorkshire Hospitals, which has around 230 vacancies for registered nurses.
In April, almost 1,000 “red flag” events - where patients missed care or sustained harm - were recorded at the organisation, up from 320 in March.Of April’s 996 red flags, 644 were due to “regular missed checks on patients”, the trust’s latest staffing report said.
Mid Yorkshire said a 120 nurses were due to join the organisation in October.
The trust has also teamed up with the University of Bradford to set up a nursing school. Director of Nursing David Melia said: “The safety and wellbeing of our patients is of course of paramount importance. Having an appropriate workforce in place really does pay a key role in supporting care to our patients.”
At Bradford Teaching Hospitals, nurses raised more than 100 incident reports over shortstaffing in the six months to February.
Bradford Royal Infirmary had 83.1 per cent of the required number of registered nurses covering day shifts in February. The trust was unable to comment last night.
Mr Turp also warned that some hospitals around the country have been hiring extra care staff - who are less qualified than registered nurses - to plug shortfalls in care facing patients.
He said: “They have an immensely valuable role.
“But the fact is they are not educated and trained to the same level in respect of specific nursing and care aspects.
“We do see trusts hiring in extra support staff to help out. But we’re absolutely clear that it’s not appropriate to substitute registered nursing care with somebody who is not registered.
“We shouldn’t underestimate the complexity of nursing care.
“If you have not go the right numbers, then research shows that mortality is higher, readmissions are higher, falls occur more frequently, pressure ulcers happen more frequently.”
At Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, parts of the organisation had more than 130 per cent of the required number of care staff, partly to “mitigate risk for registered nursing shortfalls,”, latest figures show.
But Dean Royles, Leeds Teaching Hospitals Director of HR, said: “Our nursing teams work constantly to ensure safe staffing levels, with an agreed, well designed and tested escalation process to provide additional staffing when required. This sometimes includes the use of unregistered staff to provide enhanced care for patients who need one-to-one observation or support.”
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