NHS intensive care unit which treated Boris Johnson for coronavirus ‘dangerously understaffed’, says union

Chronic staff shortages at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust have led to concerns about patient safety, Unite claims

Chiara Giordano
Friday 08 October 2021 14:53
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The NHS intensive care unit which helped save Boris Johnson’s life after he contracted coronavirus is dangerously understaffed, according to a report.

Unite said a survey of its members at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London found chronic understaffing in the unit had led to plunging morale and concerns about patient safety.

The union warned its “shocking” findings at the trust - which treated the prime minister for Covid-19 in April 2020 - could well be mirrored across other NHS trusts in England.

It also estimated 116 qualified intensive care unit nurses had left critical care in the last seven months and not all been replaced.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “These results are shocking and very distressing for our NHS members. They are total professionals but these chronic staff shortages mean they struggle to give the care they are dedicated to, so morale plummets.

“Alarm bells have to start ringing across government and the health service. This must be sorted ahead of the busy winter period because safe staffing is central to proper patient care.”

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust said it was recruiting more nurses as it continued to provide health and wellbeing support to staff.

A spokesperson for the trust said in a statement: “The safety of our patients and wellbeing of our staff are our top priorities, and we are very proud of the quality and safety of care we consistently provide – our critical care survival rates are amongst the best in the country.

“We recognise the pressure the current demand for our services places on our staff and are investing in recruiting more nurses, as well as continuing to provide extensive health and wellbeing support to our staff.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson added in a statement: “We recognise the vital role nurses have had during the pandemic, and are committed to supporting the workforce to grow as we tackle the backlog.

“There are over 9,900 more nurses in the NHS than this time last year and we will deliver 50,000 more by the end of this parliament.

“We have backed the NHS with an extra £5.4 billion to support the Covid-19 response over the next six months, and we’re investing £37 million towards staff wellbeing.”

Unite’s survey of 188 critical care staff, both nurses and technical, found 93 per cent reported understaffing in their unit every shift, 100 per cent reported staff wellbeing was affected by understaffing, and 98 per cent said they felt understaffing made their unit unsafe.

The 2020 NHS Staff Survey, which was completed by 7,272 staff members at the trust last autumn during the coronavirus pandemic, found 90 per cent felt “satisfied with the standard of care provided by the organisation”.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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