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Ministers' lack of respect for nursing puts patients at risk

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Fewer than one in ten nurses believe they can deliver safe, dignified, compassionate care all the time, a Unison survey of 3,000 nurses has revealed.

The poll, published by the health union last week, found only 8 per cent of nurses say care has improved in the last year with 35 per cent saying standards have fallen.

Respondents cited inadequate staffing levels, unreasonable workloads, stress and service cuts as barriers to care; just under three quarters claimed government cuts are affecting their work.

Yvonne Sawbridge, director of quality and performance at South Staffordshire PCT, said: 'This is not a new theme. An RCN survey in 2008 found eight out of ten nurses go home distressed because they haven't delivered good care. Nurses and patients want the same thing- blaming nurses and pitting them against patients is a deeply unhelpful contemporary commentary, which we need to look beyond.

Lucy Botting, deputy director of clinical commissioning at Barnet NHS North Central London urged nurses to exercise caution when interpreting the findings.

'I think is difficult, but we shouldn't be saying we don't deliver, because we do,' she added.

Unsurprisingly, against a backdrop of pay freezes and enforced pension changes, the survey revealed only 4 per cent of nurses feel respected by the government. Just 26 per cent would recommend nursing as a profession.

The RCN has called for an above inflation pay award that 'protects NHS wages against inflation and addresses effective cuts in earnings staff have suffered during the two-year pay freeze'. NHS Employers is to call for the NHS pay freeze to be extended into a third year.

Unison head of health Christina McAnea added: 'Nurses know the NHS and know when things are going wrong. They know patients deserve to have top quality care all of the time - not some of the time, but this is all they feel able to deliver in this environment. Workloads are becoming unmanageable and rising stress levels for nurses are bad news for patients. Nurses do not feel respected by the government - this has to change as a matter of urgency.

'The government needs to start listening to nurses and other health workers who are ringing alarm bells about the state of our NHS before it is too late,' she concluded.

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