Patient safety is being compromised as nurses increasingly provide care in hospital corridors and other non-clinical areas, a new Royal College of Nursing survey has found.
More than 70 per cent of nurses said they care for patients in a non-designated area on a daily basis, according to the survey, while another 16 per cent said they do so at least once a week.
In all, nine in 10 nurses surveyed said the frequency of providing care in corridors has increased since last winter and that the practice is compromising patients’ safety.
Nurses said so-called “corridor care” makes it more difficult to administer urgent intravenous antibiotics; limits patients’ access to toilets; degrades patients’ privacy and dignity; and increases patient duress, especially for those with mental health problems.
Mike Adams, RCN Director for England, said it is “completely unacceptable” that patients lack access to toilets when they are stuck in hospital corridors.
Adams said: “The reasons for the increased pressure on A&E departments are many and well-known; too few staff, not enough beds to admit patients to, and a lack of social care affecting hospitals’ ability to discharge patients quickly enough.
“But as a result, nurses in emergency departments are being put under intolerable pressure to keep patients safe. Nursing staff are trained to act as advocates for their patients, and Ministers and NHS leaders must listen to what nurses have told us; patient safety is being compromised too often at present.”
The RCN has begun a campaign for safe nurse staffing across the UK calling for greater investment in nurses by government and NHS leaders, according to a press release.
In England, the college is calling on the government to restore payments for student nurses’ tuition fees and for maintenance grants to fully cover these students’ actual living costs.
Just under half of survey respondents said the term “corridor nursing” is formally used in their workplace, and another 40 per cent said it is used informally. Hospital patients are sometimes looked after in corridors if no beds can be found.
David Smith, chair of RCN’s Emergency Care Association and a former A&E nurse, said corridor care “could deter future nurses from embarking on this unique and rewarding career.”
Smith said: “As specialist emergency nurses, we are in a privileged position, as we care for people when they need help most. But we’re starting to see more and more care delivered in completely unsuitable locations, as this survey shows.
“The responses show how demoralised nursing staff feel about working in these conditions.”