Tag Archives: twothirds

Two-thirds of NHS healthcare assistants doing nurses’ duties, union finds

Almost two-thirds of healthcare assistants (HCAs) are performing roles usually undertaken by nurses, such as giving patients drugs and dressing their wounds, in the latest illustration of the NHS’s staffing crisis.

The apparently growing trend of assistants acting as “nurse substitutes” has sparked concern that patients may receive inferior or potentially unsafe care because they do not have the same skills.

Of the 376,000 assistants in the NHS in England, 74% are taking on extra tasks, according to findings by the union Unison.

In a survey of almost 2,000 mainly hospital-based HCAs across the UK, 63% said they were providing patient care with worryingly little help from doctors and nurses, and 39% said they were not confident the patients they look after were receiving safe care.

Q&A

Does the UK have enough doctors and nurses?

The UK has fewer doctors and nurses than many other comparable countries both in Europe and worldwide. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Britain comes 24th in a league table of 34 member countries in terms of the number of doctors per capita. Greece, Austria and Norway have the most; the three countries with the fewest are Turkey, Chile and Mexico. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, regularly points out that the NHS in England has more doctors and nurses than when the Conservatives came to power in 2010. That is true, although there are now fewer district nurses, mental health nurses and other types of health professionals.

NHS unions and health thinktanks point out that rises in NHS staff’s workloads have outstripped the increases in overall staff numbers. Hospital bosses say understaffing is now their number one problem, even ahead of lack of money and pressure to meet exacting NHS-wide performance targets. Hunt has recently acknowledged that, and Health Education England, the NHS’s staffing and training agency, last month published a workforce strategy intended to tackle the problem.

Read a full Q&A on the NHS winter crisis

“On my first day I was shown how to do tasks like taking pulses and blood pressures by another HCA,” said Nicole, an HCA in Greater Manchester and Unison member.

One healthcare worker who asked to remain anonymous said: “They said they’d never been trained properly how to do it and weren’t really sure if they were doing it properly. HCAs are doing electrocardiograms and taking bloods. That’s a lot of responsibility.”

In the survey, 51% of HCAs said they had not been properly trained to dress wounds, give out medication or change stoma bags.

“Healthcare assistants are being left to fill staffing gaps and do vital tasks without recognition or reward. It’s bad for them and bad for patients”, said Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton. “It’s clear the pressures on them to act as nurse substitutes have increased over the winter.”

A majority of respondents (57%) said they had to perform extra tasks last winter as the NHS came under its most intense pressure ever, and 41% said they were asked to act beyond the usual limits of their roles, and without proper training more often than the previous winter.

The creeping expansion of HCAs’ roles, linked to the NHS in England’s shortfall of 40,000 nurses, risks leading to “nursing on the cheap”, the Royal College of Nursing said in response to the findings.

“As the shortage of nurses continues to bite, shifts are increasingly filled with more unregistered care staff,” said the RCN’s general secretary, Janet Davies. “Support workers play an extremely important role, but they should supplement the work of nurses, not replace them.

“It’s unfair on HCAs to expect them to deliver care they have not been trained for. It’s also unfair on patients,” she added. “Health outcomes improve with more registered nurses on duty. The government must not allow nursing on the cheap, and increasing the supply of registered nurses must be a priority.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “The situation is getting worse year by year, putting patient safety at risk. It’s totally unacceptable to expect healthcare assistants to fill in, effectively acting up while denying them the training and support they deserve for taking on extra responsibilities.”

The policy director at the Nuffield Trust health thinktank, Candace Imison, said the findings were worrying. She said: “We know that across the NHS, staff – from healthcare assistants to clinicians – are being stretched beyond their capacity daily as the health service grapples with staff shortages and growing numbers of sick and frail patients.”

Two-thirds of NHS healthcare assistants doing nurses’ duties, union finds

Almost two-thirds of healthcare assistants (HCAs) are performing roles usually undertaken by nurses, such as giving patients drugs and dressing their wounds, in the latest illustration of the NHS’s staffing crisis.

The apparently growing trend of assistants acting as “nurse substitutes” has sparked concern that patients may receive inferior or potentially unsafe care because they do not have the same skills.

Of the 376,000 assistants in the NHS in England, 74% are taking on extra tasks, according to findings by the union Unison.

In a survey of almost 2,000 mainly hospital-based HCAs across the UK, 63% said they were providing patient care with worryingly little help from doctors and nurses, and 39% said they were not confident the patients they look after were receiving safe care.

Q&A

Does the UK have enough doctors and nurses?

The UK has fewer doctors and nurses than many other comparable countries both in Europe and worldwide. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Britain comes 24th in a league table of 34 member countries in terms of the number of doctors per capita. Greece, Austria and Norway have the most; the three countries with the fewest are Turkey, Chile and Mexico. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, regularly points out that the NHS in England has more doctors and nurses than when the Conservatives came to power in 2010. That is true, although there are now fewer district nurses, mental health nurses and other types of health professionals.

NHS unions and health thinktanks point out that rises in NHS staff’s workloads have outstripped the increases in overall staff numbers. Hospital bosses say understaffing is now their number one problem, even ahead of lack of money and pressure to meet exacting NHS-wide performance targets. Hunt has recently acknowledged that, and Health Education England, the NHS’s staffing and training agency, last month published a workforce strategy intended to tackle the problem.

Read a full Q&A on the NHS winter crisis

“On my first day I was shown how to do tasks like taking pulses and blood pressures by another HCA,” said Nicole, an HCA in Greater Manchester and Unison member.

One healthcare worker who asked to remain anonymous said: “They said they’d never been trained properly how to do it and weren’t really sure if they were doing it properly. HCAs are doing electrocardiograms and taking bloods. That’s a lot of responsibility.”

In the survey, 51% of HCAs said they had not been properly trained to dress wounds, give out medication or change stoma bags.

“Healthcare assistants are being left to fill staffing gaps and do vital tasks without recognition or reward. It’s bad for them and bad for patients”, said Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton. “It’s clear the pressures on them to act as nurse substitutes have increased over the winter.”

A majority of respondents (57%) said they had to perform extra tasks last winter as the NHS came under its most intense pressure ever, and 41% said they were asked to act beyond the usual limits of their roles, and without proper training more often than the previous winter.

The creeping expansion of HCAs’ roles, linked to the NHS in England’s shortfall of 40,000 nurses, risks leading to “nursing on the cheap”, the Royal College of Nursing said in response to the findings.

“As the shortage of nurses continues to bite, shifts are increasingly filled with more unregistered care staff,” said the RCN’s general secretary, Janet Davies. “Support workers play an extremely important role, but they should supplement the work of nurses, not replace them.

“It’s unfair on HCAs to expect them to deliver care they have not been trained for. It’s also unfair on patients,” she added. “Health outcomes improve with more registered nurses on duty. The government must not allow nursing on the cheap, and increasing the supply of registered nurses must be a priority.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “The situation is getting worse year by year, putting patient safety at risk. It’s totally unacceptable to expect healthcare assistants to fill in, effectively acting up while denying them the training and support they deserve for taking on extra responsibilities.”

The policy director at the Nuffield Trust health thinktank, Candace Imison, said the findings were worrying. She said: “We know that across the NHS, staff – from healthcare assistants to clinicians – are being stretched beyond their capacity daily as the health service grapples with staff shortages and growing numbers of sick and frail patients.”

Two-thirds of NHS healthcare assistants doing nurses’ duties, union finds

Almost two-thirds of healthcare assistants (HCAs) are performing roles usually undertaken by nurses, such as giving patients drugs and dressing their wounds, in the latest illustration of the NHS’s staffing crisis.

The apparently growing trend of assistants acting as “nurse substitutes” has sparked concern that patients may receive inferior or potentially unsafe care because they do not have the same skills.

Of the 376,000 assistants in the NHS in England, 74% are taking on extra tasks, according to findings by the union Unison.

In a survey of almost 2,000 mainly hospital-based HCAs across the UK, 63% said they were providing patient care with worryingly little help from doctors and nurses, and 39% said they were not confident the patients they look after were receiving safe care.

Q&A

Does the UK have enough doctors and nurses?

The UK has fewer doctors and nurses than many other comparable countries both in Europe and worldwide. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Britain comes 24th in a league table of 34 member countries in terms of the number of doctors per capita. Greece, Austria and Norway have the most; the three countries with the fewest are Turkey, Chile and Mexico. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, regularly points out that the NHS in England has more doctors and nurses than when the Conservatives came to power in 2010. That is true, although there are now fewer district nurses, mental health nurses and other types of health professionals.

NHS unions and health thinktanks point out that rises in NHS staff’s workloads have outstripped the increases in overall staff numbers. Hospital bosses say understaffing is now their number one problem, even ahead of lack of money and pressure to meet exacting NHS-wide performance targets. Hunt has recently acknowledged that, and Health Education England, the NHS’s staffing and training agency, last month published a workforce strategy intended to tackle the problem.

Read a full Q&A on the NHS winter crisis

“On my first day I was shown how to do tasks like taking pulses and blood pressures by another HCA,” said Nicole, an HCA in Greater Manchester and Unison member.

One healthcare worker who asked to remain anonymous said: “They said they’d never been trained properly how to do it and weren’t really sure if they were doing it properly. HCAs are doing electrocardiograms and taking bloods. That’s a lot of responsibility.”

In the survey, 51% of HCAs said they had not been properly trained to dress wounds, give out medication or change stoma bags.

“Healthcare assistants are being left to fill staffing gaps and do vital tasks without recognition or reward. It’s bad for them and bad for patients”, said Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton. “It’s clear the pressures on them to act as nurse substitutes have increased over the winter.”

A majority of respondents (57%) said they had to perform extra tasks last winter as the NHS came under its most intense pressure ever, and 41% said they were asked to act beyond the usual limits of their roles, and without proper training more often than the previous winter.

The creeping expansion of HCAs’ roles, linked to the NHS in England’s shortfall of 40,000 nurses, risks leading to “nursing on the cheap”, the Royal College of Nursing said in response to the findings.

“As the shortage of nurses continues to bite, shifts are increasingly filled with more unregistered care staff,” said the RCN’s general secretary, Janet Davies. “Support workers play an extremely important role, but they should supplement the work of nurses, not replace them.

“It’s unfair on HCAs to expect them to deliver care they have not been trained for. It’s also unfair on patients,” she added. “Health outcomes improve with more registered nurses on duty. The government must not allow nursing on the cheap, and increasing the supply of registered nurses must be a priority.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “The situation is getting worse year by year, putting patient safety at risk. It’s totally unacceptable to expect healthcare assistants to fill in, effectively acting up while denying them the training and support they deserve for taking on extra responsibilities.”

The policy director at the Nuffield Trust health thinktank, Candace Imison, said the findings were worrying. She said: “We know that across the NHS, staff – from healthcare assistants to clinicians – are being stretched beyond their capacity daily as the health service grapples with staff shortages and growing numbers of sick and frail patients.”

Two-thirds of NHS healthcare assistants doing nurses’ duties, union finds

Almost two-thirds of healthcare assistants (HCAs) are performing roles usually undertaken by nurses, such as giving patients drugs and dressing their wounds, in the latest illustration of the NHS’s staffing crisis.

The apparently growing trend of assistants acting as “nurse substitutes” has sparked concern that patients may receive inferior or potentially unsafe care because they do not have the same skills.

Of the 376,000 assistants in the NHS in England, 74% are taking on extra tasks, according to findings by the union Unison.

In a survey of almost 2,000 mainly hospital-based HCAs across the UK, 63% said they were providing patient care with worryingly little help from doctors and nurses, and 39% said they were not confident the patients they look after were receiving safe care.

Q&A

Does the UK have enough doctors and nurses?

The UK has fewer doctors and nurses than many other comparable countries both in Europe and worldwide. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Britain comes 24th in a league table of 34 member countries in terms of the number of doctors per capita. Greece, Austria and Norway have the most; the three countries with the fewest are Turkey, Chile and Mexico. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, regularly points out that the NHS in England has more doctors and nurses than when the Conservatives came to power in 2010. That is true, although there are now fewer district nurses, mental health nurses and other types of health professionals.

NHS unions and health thinktanks point out that rises in NHS staff’s workloads have outstripped the increases in overall staff numbers. Hospital bosses say understaffing is now their number one problem, even ahead of lack of money and pressure to meet exacting NHS-wide performance targets. Hunt has recently acknowledged that, and Health Education England, the NHS’s staffing and training agency, last month published a workforce strategy intended to tackle the problem.

Read a full Q&A on the NHS winter crisis

“On my first day I was shown how to do tasks like taking pulses and blood pressures by another HCA,” said Nicole, an HCA in Greater Manchester and Unison member.

One healthcare worker who asked to remain anonymous said: “They said they’d never been trained properly how to do it and weren’t really sure if they were doing it properly. HCAs are doing electrocardiograms and taking bloods. That’s a lot of responsibility.”

In the survey, 51% of HCAs said they had not been properly trained to dress wounds, give out medication or change stoma bags.

“Healthcare assistants are being left to fill staffing gaps and do vital tasks without recognition or reward. It’s bad for them and bad for patients”, said Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton. “It’s clear the pressures on them to act as nurse substitutes have increased over the winter.”

A majority of respondents (57%) said they had to perform extra tasks last winter as the NHS came under its most intense pressure ever, and 41% said they were asked to act beyond the usual limits of their roles, and without proper training more often than the previous winter.

The creeping expansion of HCAs’ roles, linked to the NHS in England’s shortfall of 40,000 nurses, risks leading to “nursing on the cheap”, the Royal College of Nursing said in response to the findings.

“As the shortage of nurses continues to bite, shifts are increasingly filled with more unregistered care staff,” said the RCN’s general secretary, Janet Davies. “Support workers play an extremely important role, but they should supplement the work of nurses, not replace them.

“It’s unfair on HCAs to expect them to deliver care they have not been trained for. It’s also unfair on patients,” she added. “Health outcomes improve with more registered nurses on duty. The government must not allow nursing on the cheap, and increasing the supply of registered nurses must be a priority.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “The situation is getting worse year by year, putting patient safety at risk. It’s totally unacceptable to expect healthcare assistants to fill in, effectively acting up while denying them the training and support they deserve for taking on extra responsibilities.”

The policy director at the Nuffield Trust health thinktank, Candace Imison, said the findings were worrying. She said: “We know that across the NHS, staff – from healthcare assistants to clinicians – are being stretched beyond their capacity daily as the health service grapples with staff shortages and growing numbers of sick and frail patients.”

Two-thirds of NHS healthcare assistants doing nurses’ duties, union finds

Almost two-thirds of healthcare assistants (HCAs) are performing roles usually undertaken by nurses, such as giving patients drugs and dressing their wounds, in the latest illustration of the NHS’s staffing crisis.

The apparently growing trend of assistants acting as “nurse substitutes” has sparked concern that patients may receive inferior or potentially unsafe care because they do not have the same skills.

Of the 376,000 assistants in the NHS in England, 74% are taking on extra tasks, according to findings by the union Unison.

In a survey of almost 2,000 mainly hospital-based HCAs across the UK, 63% said they were providing patient care with worryingly little help from doctors and nurses, and 39% said they were not confident the patients they look after were receiving safe care.

Q&A

Does the UK have enough doctors and nurses?

The UK has fewer doctors and nurses than many other comparable countries both in Europe and worldwide. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Britain comes 24th in a league table of 34 member countries in terms of the number of doctors per capita. Greece, Austria and Norway have the most; the three countries with the fewest are Turkey, Chile and Mexico. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, regularly points out that the NHS in England has more doctors and nurses than when the Conservatives came to power in 2010. That is true, although there are now fewer district nurses, mental health nurses and other types of health professionals.

NHS unions and health thinktanks point out that rises in NHS staff’s workloads have outstripped the increases in overall staff numbers. Hospital bosses say understaffing is now their number one problem, even ahead of lack of money and pressure to meet exacting NHS-wide performance targets. Hunt has recently acknowledged that, and Health Education England, the NHS’s staffing and training agency, last month published a workforce strategy intended to tackle the problem.

Read a full Q&A on the NHS winter crisis

“On my first day I was shown how to do tasks like taking pulses and blood pressures by another HCA,” said Nicole, an HCA in Greater Manchester and Unison member.

One healthcare worker who asked to remain anonymous said: “They said they’d never been trained properly how to do it and weren’t really sure if they were doing it properly. HCAs are doing electrocardiograms and taking bloods. That’s a lot of responsibility.”

In the survey, 51% of HCAs said they had not been properly trained to dress wounds, give out medication or change stoma bags.

“Healthcare assistants are being left to fill staffing gaps and do vital tasks without recognition or reward. It’s bad for them and bad for patients”, said Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton. “It’s clear the pressures on them to act as nurse substitutes have increased over the winter.”

A majority of respondents (57%) said they had to perform extra tasks last winter as the NHS came under its most intense pressure ever, and 41% said they were asked to act beyond the usual limits of their roles, and without proper training more often than the previous winter.

The creeping expansion of HCAs’ roles, linked to the NHS in England’s shortfall of 40,000 nurses, risks leading to “nursing on the cheap”, the Royal College of Nursing said in response to the findings.

“As the shortage of nurses continues to bite, shifts are increasingly filled with more unregistered care staff,” said the RCN’s general secretary, Janet Davies. “Support workers play an extremely important role, but they should supplement the work of nurses, not replace them.

“It’s unfair on HCAs to expect them to deliver care they have not been trained for. It’s also unfair on patients,” she added. “Health outcomes improve with more registered nurses on duty. The government must not allow nursing on the cheap, and increasing the supply of registered nurses must be a priority.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “The situation is getting worse year by year, putting patient safety at risk. It’s totally unacceptable to expect healthcare assistants to fill in, effectively acting up while denying them the training and support they deserve for taking on extra responsibilities.”

The policy director at the Nuffield Trust health thinktank, Candace Imison, said the findings were worrying. She said: “We know that across the NHS, staff – from healthcare assistants to clinicians – are being stretched beyond their capacity daily as the health service grapples with staff shortages and growing numbers of sick and frail patients.”

Two-thirds of NHS healthcare assistants doing nurses’ duties, union finds

Almost two-thirds of healthcare assistants (HCAs) are performing roles usually undertaken by nurses, such as giving patients drugs and dressing their wounds, in the latest illustration of the NHS’s staffing crisis.

The apparently growing trend of assistants acting as “nurse substitutes” has sparked concern that patients may receive inferior or potentially unsafe care because they do not have the same skills.

Of the 376,000 assistants in the NHS in England, 74% are taking on extra tasks, according to findings by the union Unison.

In a survey of almost 2,000 mainly hospital-based HCAs across the UK, 63% said they were providing patient care with worryingly little help from doctors and nurses, and 39% said they were not confident the patients they look after were receiving safe care.

Q&A

Does the UK have enough doctors and nurses?

The UK has fewer doctors and nurses than many other comparable countries both in Europe and worldwide. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Britain comes 24th in a league table of 34 member countries in terms of the number of doctors per capita. Greece, Austria and Norway have the most; the three countries with the fewest are Turkey, Chile and Mexico. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, regularly points out that the NHS in England has more doctors and nurses than when the Conservatives came to power in 2010. That is true, although there are now fewer district nurses, mental health nurses and other types of health professionals.

NHS unions and health thinktanks point out that rises in NHS staff’s workloads have outstripped the increases in overall staff numbers. Hospital bosses say understaffing is now their number one problem, even ahead of lack of money and pressure to meet exacting NHS-wide performance targets. Hunt has recently acknowledged that, and Health Education England, the NHS’s staffing and training agency, last month published a workforce strategy intended to tackle the problem.

Read a full Q&A on the NHS winter crisis

“On my first day I was shown how to do tasks like taking pulses and blood pressures by another HCA,” said Nicole, an HCA in Greater Manchester and Unison member.

One healthcare worker who asked to remain anonymous said: “They said they’d never been trained properly how to do it and weren’t really sure if they were doing it properly. HCAs are doing electrocardiograms and taking bloods. That’s a lot of responsibility.”

In the survey, 51% of HCAs said they had not been properly trained to dress wounds, give out medication or change stoma bags.

“Healthcare assistants are being left to fill staffing gaps and do vital tasks without recognition or reward. It’s bad for them and bad for patients”, said Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton. “It’s clear the pressures on them to act as nurse substitutes have increased over the winter.”

A majority of respondents (57%) said they had to perform extra tasks last winter as the NHS came under its most intense pressure ever, and 41% said they were asked to act beyond the usual limits of their roles, and without proper training more often than the previous winter.

The creeping expansion of HCAs’ roles, linked to the NHS in England’s shortfall of 40,000 nurses, risks leading to “nursing on the cheap”, the Royal College of Nursing said in response to the findings.

“As the shortage of nurses continues to bite, shifts are increasingly filled with more unregistered care staff,” said the RCN’s general secretary, Janet Davies. “Support workers play an extremely important role, but they should supplement the work of nurses, not replace them.

“It’s unfair on HCAs to expect them to deliver care they have not been trained for. It’s also unfair on patients,” she added. “Health outcomes improve with more registered nurses on duty. The government must not allow nursing on the cheap, and increasing the supply of registered nurses must be a priority.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “The situation is getting worse year by year, putting patient safety at risk. It’s totally unacceptable to expect healthcare assistants to fill in, effectively acting up while denying them the training and support they deserve for taking on extra responsibilities.”

The policy director at the Nuffield Trust health thinktank, Candace Imison, said the findings were worrying. She said: “We know that across the NHS, staff – from healthcare assistants to clinicians – are being stretched beyond their capacity daily as the health service grapples with staff shortages and growing numbers of sick and frail patients.”

Two-thirds of NHS healthcare assistants doing nurses’ duties, union finds

Almost two-thirds of healthcare assistants (HCAs) are performing roles usually undertaken by nurses, such as giving patients drugs and dressing their wounds, in the latest illustration of the NHS’s staffing crisis.

The apparently growing trend of assistants acting as “nurse substitutes” has sparked concern that patients may receive inferior or potentially unsafe care because they do not have the same skills.

Of the 376,000 assistants in the NHS in England, 74% are taking on extra tasks, according to findings by the union Unison.

In a survey of almost 2,000 mainly hospital-based HCAs across the UK, 63% said they were providing patient care with worryingly little help from doctors and nurses, and 39% said they were not confident the patients they look after were receiving safe care.

Q&A

Does the UK have enough doctors and nurses?

The UK has fewer doctors and nurses than many other comparable countries both in Europe and worldwide. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Britain comes 24th in a league table of 34 member countries in terms of the number of doctors per capita. Greece, Austria and Norway have the most; the three countries with the fewest are Turkey, Chile and Mexico. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, regularly points out that the NHS in England has more doctors and nurses than when the Conservatives came to power in 2010. That is true, although there are now fewer district nurses, mental health nurses and other types of health professionals.

NHS unions and health thinktanks point out that rises in NHS staff’s workloads have outstripped the increases in overall staff numbers. Hospital bosses say understaffing is now their number one problem, even ahead of lack of money and pressure to meet exacting NHS-wide performance targets. Hunt has recently acknowledged that, and Health Education England, the NHS’s staffing and training agency, last month published a workforce strategy intended to tackle the problem.

Read a full Q&A on the NHS winter crisis

“On my first day I was shown how to do tasks like taking pulses and blood pressures by another HCA,” said Nicole, an HCA in Greater Manchester and Unison member.

One healthcare worker who asked to remain anonymous said: “They said they’d never been trained properly how to do it and weren’t really sure if they were doing it properly. HCAs are doing electrocardiograms and taking bloods. That’s a lot of responsibility.”

In the survey, 51% of HCAs said they had not been properly trained to dress wounds, give out medication or change stoma bags.

“Healthcare assistants are being left to fill staffing gaps and do vital tasks without recognition or reward. It’s bad for them and bad for patients”, said Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton. “It’s clear the pressures on them to act as nurse substitutes have increased over the winter.”

A majority of respondents (57%) said they had to perform extra tasks last winter as the NHS came under its most intense pressure ever, and 41% said they were asked to act beyond the usual limits of their roles, and without proper training more often than the previous winter.

The creeping expansion of HCAs’ roles, linked to the NHS in England’s shortfall of 40,000 nurses, risks leading to “nursing on the cheap”, the Royal College of Nursing said in response to the findings.

“As the shortage of nurses continues to bite, shifts are increasingly filled with more unregistered care staff,” said the RCN’s general secretary, Janet Davies. “Support workers play an extremely important role, but they should supplement the work of nurses, not replace them.

“It’s unfair on HCAs to expect them to deliver care they have not been trained for. It’s also unfair on patients,” she added. “Health outcomes improve with more registered nurses on duty. The government must not allow nursing on the cheap, and increasing the supply of registered nurses must be a priority.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “The situation is getting worse year by year, putting patient safety at risk. It’s totally unacceptable to expect healthcare assistants to fill in, effectively acting up while denying them the training and support they deserve for taking on extra responsibilities.”

The policy director at the Nuffield Trust health thinktank, Candace Imison, said the findings were worrying. She said: “We know that across the NHS, staff – from healthcare assistants to clinicians – are being stretched beyond their capacity daily as the health service grapples with staff shortages and growing numbers of sick and frail patients.”

Patient safety getting worse, say two-thirds of NHS doctors

Nearly two-thirds of doctors believe patient safety has deteriorated over the past year and nine out of 10 have experienced staff shortages, a survey of 1,500 NHS consultant physicians in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has revealed.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP), which carried out the study, said the results exposed a health system “pushed to its limit” in which doctors felt they could not deliver what was asked of them.

One told researchers: “We are not robots, we are human beings with limits.” Another said: “I cried on my drive home because I am so frustrated and distraught at the substandard care we are delivering.”

According to the study, 80% of those asked said they were worried about the ability of their service to deliver safe patient care in the next 12 months and 84% believed the workforce was demoralised by the increasing pressures on the NHS.

By all but one measure, doctors said conditions were worse than last year. In positive news, there was a reduction in the number of doctors experiencing delays in patients being transferred from their care.

“It is extremely worrying and depressing that our doctors have experienced an even worse winter than last year, particularly when so much effort was put into forward planning and cancelling elective procedures to enable us to cope better,” said the RCP’s president, Prof Jane Dacre.

“We simply cannot go through this again. It is not as if the situation was either new or unexpected. As the NHS reaches 70, our patients deserve better. Somehow, we need to move faster towards a better resourced, adequately staffed NHS during 2018 or it will happen again.”

The RCP proposed relaxing visa restrictions for health workers, making more money available to match growing patient need, including in social care, and more investment in public health initiatives that reduce demand.

Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, backed the recommendations made in the report. She said: “We have huge empathy with our hospital colleagues, and we know that GPs around the UK would echo their sentiments around increasing workload and concerns for patient safety.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We are absolutely committed to making the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world, and more staff would now recommend their care to family and friends than ever before.

“We know the NHS is busy, that’s why we supported it this winter with an additional £437m of funding, and gave it top priority in the recent budget with an extra £2.8bn allocated over the next two years.”

The value of NHS hospitals treating private patients has been questioned in a separate report, which reveals that, far from generating extra cash, several hospitals have lost millions of pounds.

According to thinktank the Centre for Health and the Public Interest, private treatment was expected to become a significant source of income for NHS hospital trusts after the 2012 Health and Social Care Act.

But nine hospital trusts have lost money, in one case £18m over six years, and others have racked up bad debts from non-payment running into millions.

About 1,140 beds across 90 hospitals are set aside for private patients, the report stated. “Could they have made a difference to the many patients waiting hours for treatment in recent months had they been available for NHS care?” asked Dr Sarah Walpole, the report’s author. “It is not possible to say whether the NHS benefits financially from devoting resources to the treatment of private patients.”

One cigarette ‘may lead to habit for more than two-thirds of people’

More than two-thirds of people who try just one cigarette may go on to become regular smokers, new research suggests.

Researchers found that just over 60% of adults said they had tried a cigarette at some point in their lives, with almost 69% of those noting that they had, at least for a period, gone on to smoke cigarettes daily.

“[This shows] prevention, providing [fewer] opportunities or reasons for young people to try a cigarette, is a good idea,” said Peter Hajek, co-author of the research, from Queen Mary University of London.

The research, published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, is based on data pooled from eight surveys conducted since the year 2000, including three each from the UK and USA, and a further two studies from Australia and New Zealand.

Together, the surveys included more than 216,000 respondents, with between 50% and 82% saying that, after trying a cigarette, they had gone on to smoke on a daily basis – at least temporarily. Further analysis showed that, taken together, an estimated 68.9% of individuals smoked daily for a period after trying a cigarette.

The team also looked at whether the results were likely to be skewed by smokers being less likely to respond in surveys than non-smokers, but no strong effect was found. However, the authors note that the study also has other limitations, including that the findings are based on respondents self-reporting information, meaning the resulting figures are only an estimate.

“It is possible that somebody who is a lifetime non-smoker did try a cigarette when they were a kid but it didn’t make any impression on them, and they forgot it or don’t see that it is important enough to report,” said Hajek. But, he added, “I think even if you assume there is a recall issue and other things, you are talking about more than a 50% [conversion rate from trying a cigarette to daily smoking].”

Decline in British smoking since 1974

Hajek added that declining rates of smoking among younger people suggested that measures such as restrictions on sales and a shift away from portraying it as glamorous were having a positive effect. But, he noted, the influence of e-cigarettes should also be explored, since the decline in smoking rates in England has accelerated since the devices came onto the market.

Linda Bauld, professor of health policy at the University of Stirling, said the study highlighted the importance of preventing smoking in the first place.

“Tobacco use starts in childhood for two-thirds of smokers in the UK, and this study suggests that even trying a cigarette becomes regular use in most cases,” she said.

“Fortunately, in the UK, youth smoking rates continue to decline – but we shouldn’t be complacent,” she added, noting that according to recent figures every year approximately 200,000 children in the UK try cigarettes for the first time. According to recent reports, there were almost one billion smokers worldwide in 2015, with numbers expected to rise – despite a drop in prevalence – as the global population grows.

Global smoking prevalence

Bauld also agreed that the role of e-cigarettes merited further study, pointing out that while it had been assumed that experimentation with e-cigarettes would also lead to regular use, that does not appear to be the case. “

While rates of e-cigarette experimentation amongst young people have risen in recent years, rates of regular use in teenagers who have never smoked remain at well below 1%, she said. “We need to be clear about this distinction and keep our focus on doing everything we can to prevent smoking, which we know is deadly, rather than demonising vaping, which all the evidence suggests is a hugely less harmful behaviour.”

One cigarette ‘may lead to habit for more than two-thirds of people’

More than two-thirds of people who try just one cigarette may go on to become regular smokers, new research suggests.

Researchers found that just over 60% of adults said they had tried a cigarette at some point in their lives, with almost 69% of those noting that they had, at least for a period, gone on to smoke cigarettes daily.

“[This shows] prevention, providing [fewer] opportunities or reasons for young people to try a cigarette, is a good idea,” said Peter Hajek, co-author of the research, from Queen Mary University of London.

The research, published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, is based on data pooled from eight surveys conducted since the year 2000, including three each from the UK and USA, and a further two studies from Australia and New Zealand.

Together, the surveys included more than 216,000 respondents, with between 50% and 82% saying that, after trying a cigarette, they had gone on to smoke on a daily basis – at least temporarily. Further analysis showed that, taken together, an estimated 68.9% of individuals smoked daily for a period after trying a cigarette.

The team also looked at whether the results were likely to be skewed by smokers being less likely to respond in surveys than non-smokers, but no strong effect was found. However, the authors note that the study also has other limitations, including that the findings are based on respondents self-reporting information, meaning the resulting figures are only an estimate.

“It is possible that somebody who is a lifetime non-smoker did try a cigarette when they were a kid but it didn’t make any impression on them, and they forgot it or don’t see that it is important enough to report,” said Hajek. But, he added, “I think even if you assume there is a recall issue and other things, you are talking about more than a 50% [conversion rate from trying a cigarette to daily smoking].”

Decline in British smoking since 1974

Hajek added that declining rates of smoking among younger people suggested that measures such as restrictions on sales and a shift away from portraying it as glamorous were having a positive effect. But, he noted, the influence of e-cigarettes should also be explored, since the decline in smoking rates in England has accelerated since the devices came onto the market.

Linda Bauld, professor of health policy at the University of Stirling, said the study highlighted the importance of preventing smoking in the first place.

“Tobacco use starts in childhood for two-thirds of smokers in the UK, and this study suggests that even trying a cigarette becomes regular use in most cases,” she said.

“Fortunately, in the UK, youth smoking rates continue to decline – but we shouldn’t be complacent,” she added, noting that according to recent figures every year approximately 200,000 children in the UK try cigarettes for the first time. According to recent reports, there were almost one billion smokers worldwide in 2015, with numbers expected to rise – despite a drop in prevalence – as the global population grows.

Global smoking prevalence

Bauld also agreed that the role of e-cigarettes merited further study, pointing out that while it had been assumed that experimentation with e-cigarettes would also lead to regular use, that does not appear to be the case. “

While rates of e-cigarette experimentation amongst young people have risen in recent years, rates of regular use in teenagers who have never smoked remain at well below 1%, she said. “We need to be clear about this distinction and keep our focus on doing everything we can to prevent smoking, which we know is deadly, rather than demonising vaping, which all the evidence suggests is a hugely less harmful behaviour.”