Most nurses have ‘no time to talk to patients’

Seven out of every 10 Irish nurses are so overstretched they do not have time to comfort seriously ill patients or their families, while one third say patient checks are regularly left undone.

The claim is made in the Irish section of a soon-to-be published European-wide patient safety report, which also warns the crisis is further exacerbated by nurses being told to clean wards and act as porters due to non-medical cutbacks.

Annette Kennedy, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation professional development director, told the Irish Examiner the 2010-2011 findings show 69% of Irish nurses say they do not have time to “comfort or talk to patients”.

Half also have no time to “develop or update care plans”; 31% cannot “adequately” keep track of patients; while 27% and 23% are regularly unable to plan and “adequately document” patient care.

A further 19% find it difficult to know where the patients they are meant to be treating are, while 4% have no time to implement “pain management” for chronically ill patients.

The same Irish section of the Registered Nurse Forecast Report (, drawn up by DCU academic Prof Anne Matthews, also warns that half of Irish nurses are regularly told to do jobs that are not their responsibility. These include acting as porters, going to the pharmacy or a local store to pick up supplies, and cleaning rooms and equipment.

Ms Kennedy also raised concerns over repeated Department of Health claims to the OECD that Ireland has 65,000 nurses. She said in reality the number working in the system was far lower.

“The Department of Health figures are based on the register of nurses. Anybody who’s retired may not come off the register, the people who have gone to England and Australia might want to stay on the register as they may come back.

“There are 34,000 working in the public sector, about 7,000 in the private sector, so we have been crucified by this.”

The under-staffing crisis was the subject of heated debate yesterday, with delegates voting for the Health Information and Quality Authority to introduce minimum staffing safety standards on wards.

However, several nurses raised questions over the government-funded group’s commitment to tackling the issue.

Dublin East Coast Area branch member, Madeleine Spiers, said: “You’ll never get a pimp to stamp out prostitution.”

Meanwhile, despite Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore telling the Dáil he “didn’t see” how hospitals could hide emergency department trolleys on different wards, the INMO insisted that the figures are being massaged in this way.


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