Published Tuesday, 09 October 2012
Nurses say they're overstretched and understaffed. (© Getty)
In a survey of 2,000 nurses it emerged that workloads are perceived to be higher than three years ago, and 60% believed there are issues with staffing levels.
Public service union Unison carried out the research and spokeswoman Anne Speed said the results are "reflective of the ongoing cuts being made to nursing jobs across Northern Ireland".
"Since December 2009, the nursing workforce has decreased by 2% with a further 500 posts expected to be cut by 2013. The number of district nurses has also fallen by 8% over the past two years," she explained.
"In Unison's 2010 report Care in the Balance it outlines that a minimum nurse to patient ratio saves lives and results in better patient care. Yet, this survey shows that 85% of nurses across all trusts and bands state that their workload is 'heavier' than three years ago."
Last week it emerged a patient died after waiting 22 hours on a trolley at Antrim A&E, while six months ago an elderly man died in similar circumstances at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital.
It is patient care that is suffering as a result of these cuts.
Ms Speed said staffing levels on wards have not matched the increased patient dependency, and fewer nurses are mow treating more patients.
Nurses also raised concerns about low and deteriorating morale, difficulties in being able to access additional training and a high proportion of those in bands two or three and seven said they were likely to leave their employment because of the staffing concerns
Eoin Stewart is a staff nurse at Belfast's Mater Hospital. He said the drive to meet targets despite increased workload increases daily work pressures on staff.
"The pressure associated with the increased workload is exacerbated by the drive by management to sustain 95% levels of bed occupancy on wards and by the pressures linked to managing bed days and discharge targets. Meeting discharge targets can be challenging due to a lack of intermediate care facilities in the community.
"Nurses want to nurse. They want to deliver care to patients, but are getting increasingly frustrated that this is no longer the focus of their role," he added.