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‘If this carries on we’ll have no staff left’: NHS boss warns of unrelenting pressure

NHS Fife's A&E departments are under strain

A stark warning about the NHS Fife crisis came with calls for more help to support “broken” staff this week.

Wilma Brown, NHS Fife Employee Director, gave a stark insight into staff morale this week and said action is needed to address nationwide issues and pressures.

It comes as Royal College of Nursing (RCN) reveals it’s balloting to find out if their members would support strike action and accuses Health Secretary Humza Yousaf MSP of not “engaging meaningfully” with them.

‘We’ll have no staff left’

NHS Fife Chief Executive Carol Potter said measures including redeploying staff and halting services are now being considered to relieve pressure.

Wilma Brown revealed staff are involved as much as possible in helping NHS Fife deliver plans to relieve pressure on services and “stand behind our management colleagues when we can.”

Victoria Hospital Kirkcaldy.

But she added: “We can’t continue in the vain that we are or we won’t have any staff left.

‘They are just broken’

“Absence figures are going up particularly in emergency care which is at an all time high.

“It’s very important we do everything we can to try to relieve some of that pressure.

“I’ve been going back to the floor and working alongside these people who are absolutely exhausted – they are just broken.

NHS Fife staff are under pressure.

“Something more has to be done to support the staff. But I’m not saying this lies even in the gift of our Executive Team within NHS Fife.”

She revealed there have been discussions with Health Secretary Humza Yousaf MSP to ask what’s being done overall.

“It’s not just NHS Fife, it’s right across NHS Scotland. It would be remiss of me not to say how staff are feeling, how unsafe they are feeling and how absolutely broken some of them are.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf is coming under pressure. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA

“We keep pushing and it’s not sustainable.”

Ballot of nurses due

Her views come in the same week as the RCN said their members are increasingly concerned the staffing crisis is putting patient safety at risk.

It is to hold an indicative ballot of members working in the NHS in Scotland on industrial action over pay.

Nurses are under pressure. Jane Barlow/PA Wire

In May this year RCN members overwhelmingly rejected the Scottish government’s pay offer. In June a trade dispute was lodged over the issue.

Since June, despite assurances, RCN members feel Humza Yousaf MSP has not engaged meaningfully with their concerns over the NHS staffing crisis and patient safety.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf at the Dundee Scottish Ambulance Service depot in July.

Julie Lamberth, Chair of RCN Scotland Board, said: “RCN members feel they can no longer deliver the care required and that the public deserves.

“Nursing is a safety critical profession and nursing staff are highly skilled and responsible for providing expert and complex clinical care 24 hours a day.

But staffing levels are at crisis point.

“Nursing and midwifery vacancies have reached a record high. Every patient needs and deserves the best quality of care possible but nursing staff are working with one arm tied behind their back due to the staffing shortages.

‘Relied on good will’

“The Scottish government has relied on the good will of nursing staff for too long.

“It’s a last resort and extremely difficult decision for nursing staff even to consider industrial action.

“But the current staffing challenges are causing unacceptable risks to patients and staff. The Scottish government has the opportunity to do the right thing by nursing.”

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