Though the provision of healthcare services is aimed to holistically improve and ensure the wellbeing of patients, individuals may not necessarily receive the best personal care, particularly at times when the numbers of healthcare professionals are at a shortage.

Poor provision of care may also be compounded by a rapidly ageing population whose needs demand more intensive care, and overworked nurses threaten to reduce the quality of patient care.

“Nurses have been consistently saying for several years that they are so stretched they often find they are unable to complete all the tasks on their shift, said shadow health minister Justin madders, who added that the staff shortages across the NHS were due to the ministers’ “incompetent” decision to cut number of nurse training positions in 2010.

Shortage of nurses risks compromising good healthcare

An inquiry by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) revealed that the workload of nurses at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in south London are stretched to the unfortunate extent that patients were made to sleep in soiled incontinence pads, as nurses had no time to assist them to use the commodes.

"We spoke with a patient on ward 18 who told us they had repeatedly asked staff for a bath or shower and had been told it wasn't their job to provide this,” said the report by the CQC.

“We spoke with the nurse in charge who said staff were often too busy to provide personal care and this meant some patients could go up to two months without having their hair washed.”

Overcrowding in the same hospital has also resulted in sick patients being treated in chairs and corridors– forcing CQC inspectors to intervene after hospital staff failed to notice the rapid deterioration of a patient’s blood poisoning, whose vital signs were left unmonitored for nearly six hours, causing him to shake and struggle with breathing.

“This deeply shocking case is yet another example of a health service stretched to breaking point due to underfunding by the Conservatives,” said Madders.

A spokesman for Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, said, “We recognise there is more to do and we have a detailed programme of improvements to our emergency pathway, and care in our wards.”

Singapore and Malaysia in a pursuit to tackle shortage of nurses

This shortfall in nurses can be attributed to a multitude of factors, such as the change in patients’ needs, expectations and demographics, and is a common issue across the globe.

To address the issue, the Singapore Health Ministry has in recent years pushed for upgrading of skills among nurses, so that they will be trained to manage the increasing challenges of the healthcare sector. As of 2015, there are roughly 36,000 skilled nurses nationwide, and the overall nurse-to-patient ratio has improved from 1:8 in 2004 to 1:5 in 2014 for day shifts in the general wards.

In Malaysia, on the other hand, low wages have driven nurses to work many shifts and multiple jobs, resulting in a lag of nurse-to-population ratio, with a current ratio of 1:329 against the 2020 ideal recruitment ratio of 1:200 recommended by the International Council of Nurses.

Concerns have been raised over the compromise in patient safety due to current shortages in nurses. Associate Professir Dr Zabidah Putit, Head of Nursing Department in Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), believes that Malaysia must provide compatible remuneration in order to retain quality nurses, as better nurse-to-patient ratios would mean greater leverage on more personalised care.

“One of the most satisfying aspects of nursing is the personal interaction experienced in the nurse-patient relationship,” said Traci Shortt, Clinical Operations Specialist and Lead Nurse Practitioner of US based Schumacher Clinical Partners (SCP) Consulting.

“In today's technologically demanding environment, when employers can promote this interaction in their processes, nurses and patients both win." MIMS

Read more:
Nursing apprentices will be allowed to administer drugs to NHS patients without supervision
Singapore’s Ministry of Health to encourage nurses to upgrade themselves
Overworked nurses pose health risks to patients: But why can’t nurses catch a break?
Common problems in the nursing profession
Low wages driving Malaysian nurses away from the profession