Terrified student nurses are being left in sole charge of NHS patients within a few weeks of starting their medical training, the Royal College of Nursing warned yesterday at the start of its annual conference in Harrogate. The students feared they might put patients’ lives at risk because they were not qualified to cope in an emergency, but they did not dare complain in case they lost marks for being branded as troublemakers.
Peter Carter, the RCN’s general secretary, said the problem arose because hospitals did not have enough qualified nurses to cope with an increasing number of patients. Some trusts were economising on staffing to reduce financial deficits. A survey of more than 500 first-year student nurses found 42% had been left on their own in charge of patients and 15% said they witnessed problems while unattended.
The RCN said student nurses had to complete 2,300 hours of clinical training and should not be left unsupervised until they were close to qualification, when any time alone on the ward should be carefully pre-arranged. The survey showed 84% of students who were left alone with patients did not report the fact to their university or workplace. More than a third (35%) said they thought the complaint would not be taken seriously and a further third (33%) were worried it might affect their marks.
NHS leaving students in sole charge of patients