The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said it was concerned staff could ‘burn out’ over winter unless local staffing plans prioritised the ‘safest, highest quality care’.
It said more nurses were registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) than last year but it was not enough.
This week the health service in England moved to its highest alert level, level four, to deal with Covid-19 cases.
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said the move was in response to a ‘serious situation ahead’, adding there were ’22 hospitals’ worth’ of Covid-19 patients in hospitals across the country.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said it was concerned staff could ‘burn out’ over winter unless local staffing plans prioritised the ‘safest, highest quality care’. Pictured NHS staff and soldiers at the Liverpool Tennis Centre ahead of mass testing drive
The RCN urged the Government to plan around the actual nurse staffing available – including what those nurses can safely do.
It asked for a space where workers could raise concerns about staffing levels and patient safety, and be assured such worries would be properly acted on.
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens pictured this week
Mike Adams, RCN England director, said: ‘The NHS is now at its highest level of preparedness as it faces the prospect of an extremely challenging winter.
‘We already know that frontline nurses, in hospitals, communities and care homes, are under huge strain, and anecdotally we’re hearing that in some hospitals they are becoming increasingly thinly spread on the ground, as staff become unwell or have to isolate at the same time as demand on services continues to increase.
‘The Government says nurses have been given extra training to provide more critical care staff to treat Covid-19 patients, but there simply aren’t enough to go around.
‘There are around 40,000 registered nursing vacancies across the NHS in England alone.
‘It is essential that learning is applied to planning for this winter, including what service can be delivered safely with the workforce available.’
General view of the Children’s Emergency Centre at County Hospital in Stafford. The RCN urged the Government to plan around the actual nurse staffing available – including what those nurses can safely do
On Thursday Sir Simon appeared alongside Boris Johnson for a press conference during which he assured sceptics that the second wave of the pandemic ‘is real and serious’.
The health chief said: ‘The health service has been working incredibly hard to prepare and to catch up on the care that was disrupted during the first wave.’
Sir Simon said around 30,000 staff in the health service were either off with coronavirus or having to self-isolate, and ‘that has an impact’.