England's Nurses May Have To Bend The Rules To Cope This Winter

England’s Nurses May Have To Bend The Rules To Cope This Winter

Health leaders in England have warned nurses they may need to adapt the way they care for patients over winter should pressure on hospitals increase even more.

The country’s public hospital system, the National Health Service, is already under major strain with a crisis in social care and prolonged staffing shortages making it hard to both discharge patients and admit new ones.

Leaders are concerned these pressures will only increase as winter approaches. Seasonal illnesses like flu can increase patient demand and push up staff absence, exacerbating existing vulnerabilities.

In the letter, leaders including chief nursing officer Ruth May wrote: “As we all know, there is already sustained additional demand across all sectors and settings of health and care provision…

“We recognize this winter will be difficult and that you are likely to have concerns about both the professional practicalities and implications of working under sustained pressure. We are committed to doing what we can to ensure you are, and feel, supported and safe.”

Leaders reassured staff that regulators would take into account the need to “depart from established procedures” and “to adapt practice at times of significantly increased national pressure,” should staff be referred over patient care concerns.

“Please be assured that your professional code and principles of practice are there to guide and support your judgments and decision-making in all circumstances,” they wrote.

The letter, which was published by the Nursing and Midwifery Council last week, has received wider attention in recent days after being shared on Twitter by Sunday Times health editor Shaun Lintern.

A similar letter was sent by chief medical officer Chris Whitty and others to medics, according to inews.

Nurses and other hospital staff are already planning to strike, having endured especially difficult conditions over the last two years. With inflation rising to double digits, trade unions argue that existing pay increases have been dwarfed by a soaring cost of living.

Strikes, if they go ahead, will impact more than 175 organizations across the UK according to The Independent. But staff working in emergency departments and other life-preserving care will still work as usual.

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