Almost eight out of ten diabetes specialist nurses believe their workload is impacting on patient care and safety, according to a survey.
The profession is at ‘breaking point’ and urgent action needs to be taken to recruit and develop more diabetes specialist nurses (DSNs) to avert a crisis of care according to Diabetes UK, who commissioned the poll.
A spokesperson for Diabetes UK said the Diabetes Specialist Nursing 2016 Workforce Survey “painted a picture of a highly committed workforce struggling to cope as the demand for diabetes services continues to soar without a corresponding increase in the number of DSNs”.
78% of those asked voiced concerns that their workload, and said it was having an impact on patient care and,or, safety. 39% of DSNs said that they considered their current workload as ‘unmanageable’.
Almost nine out of 10 DSNs reported working above their contracted hours, while several respondents said their contracted hours remained the same but they are working unpaid overtime to ensure good patient care.
Bridget Turner, director of policy and care improvement at Diabetes UK, said: “Evidence shows that DSNs reduce the length of stay in hospital, improve patient satisfaction and are cost effective. But as they are relatively more expensive than non-specialist staff DSNs are vulnerable to cost-cutting measures in times of austerity.
“Unless urgent action is taken to recruit and develop more DSNs, including to senior grades, workforce shortages are likely to worsen in coming years and this will have a potentially devastating impact on patient care and safety. We know that there are fantastic examples of good practice and innovation in some local areas but the national picture shows a profession at breaking point. DSNs should not be viewed as a luxury, they should be recognised as vital to delivering safe, quality care for people with diabetes, including by supporting people to successfully self-manage their condition.”
The survey shows that DSN workforce numbers have not kept up with increasing diabetes prevalence with the number of people diagnosed with diabetes, mainly type 2 increasing by 72% (in the UK) in just under a decade. Instead, 29% said there had been cuts to DSN posts in their team over the past couple of years, suggesting that the financial pressures that the NHS are having, is having a direct impact on diabetes care and safety.
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