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Nursing cuts see palliative patients waiting up to 8 hours for care


14 March 2017

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End of life care is failing as funding constraints and a shortage of nurses has led to a growing gap between demand and capacity in hospitals, a report from a leading think tank has said.

The King’s Fund report, Understanding NHS financial pressures, found that patient access and quality of care are being affected in ways that often go “under the radar”.

End of life care is failing as funding constraints and a shortage of nurses has led to a growing gap between demand and capacity in hospitals, a report from a leading think tank has said.

The King’s Fund report, Understanding NHS financial pressures, found that patient access and quality of care are being affected in ways that often go “under the radar”.

The authors looked at four services – testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, district nursing, elective hip replacement and neonatal care – to explore the impact of financial pressures on patient care.

They found that funding cuts from 2010/11 have taken time to have an impact but are now affecting patient care.

The findings suggest that community and public health services have been hit hardest, while acute and specialist services have so far been relatively protected.

The funding cuts have also lead to nursing workforce shortages, which are leaving district nurses stretched and stressed leading to a lower quality of care for some patients, the think tank said.

The report quoted an unnamed hospice manager as having said, ‘The district nurses working at night are not able to give effective response times; you can wait up to eight hours… for patients experiencing pain and discomfort in the last two to three days of their life, it has a massive impact.’

The report also highlighted the unnecessary risk patients are under when facing STI treatment.

In some regions, local authority spending on STI treatment and testing services was cut by more than 20% between 2013/14 and 2015/16, resulting in fewer clinics and staff cuts in some areas.

The report warns this could put patients and the general population at greater risk of infection.

Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said patients are ‘unfairly suffering’ because of an ‘underfunded NHS at breaking point’.

He said: ‘The public health budget in England has been continually raided, with a significant impact on preventative services, slowing any long-term improvement in population health and failing to save money.’

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘The system is under enormous pressure and it is becoming increasingly evident that in some places care is not as good or as quick as it once was.

‘Staff are continuing to ‘just about cope’ but the stress they are now under will eventually have an impact on patients.’

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