PLANS to force nurses to work 12-hour shifts could jeopardise patient safety, The Royal College of Nursing has claimed.
Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which operates Dewsbury District Hospital, has announced a plan to change the working patterns of its nursing staff.
At the moment about 40% of nurses working for the Mid Yorkshire trust work shorter shifts. They are being asked to consider a move to standardise shift patterns so that everyone works two or more long shifts in a week as opposed to a variety of shifts.
But officials from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) say they fear it could lead to more mistakes.
RCN regional director for Yorkshire, Glenn Turp, said: “It is true that Royal College of Nursing research indicates that longer shifts tend to be popular amongst some of our members – but one size doesn’t fit all.
“This approach does not take account of the fact that many staff will have caring responsibilities or may have medical or other reasons why working for 12 hours is just out of the question.
“We are also concerned that there could be periods in the day when all the staff on a ward are reaching the end of their working day and this could lead to some serious patient safety issues.”
RCN officials have said their report, “A Shift in the Right Direction”, found that: “Concentration and productivity tend to decline towards the end of the shifts, following lunch and during the night and early hours of the morning.”
It goes on to recommend, “Where possible, demanding, dangerous and/or safety-critical work should be avoided during the night and early hours of the morning and towards the end of long shifts.
“When work is particularly demanding, consider shortening the length of the shift.”
Helen Thomson, interim chief nurse at The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “The key aim of this proposal that we are consulting on is to improve safe, high quality care. The views of our staff and their representatives are an important part of this which is why we are carrying out a consultation.
“We are already taking the views of the RCN into account and we have also considered national research as part of our development of the proposal.
“We have been clear that there will be times when other shift patterns will need to be accommodated and we would of course aim to be as flexible as possible to individuals.
“However, what we are proposing is a shift pattern similar to that which many nurses already work and which is aimed at improving continuity of care for patients.”