This has been the worst ever October for hospital overcrowding, say nurses

INMO records 11,452 patients on trolleys across the State this month

The INMO said it had warned the HSE that current recruitment restrictions was “putting lives at risk”. File image: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Insufficient hospital beds, overcrowding and chronic understaffing are leaving patients at “grave risk”, nurses have claimed.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said on Thursday it had warned HSE chiefs that current recruitment restrictions was "putting lives at risk".

The INMO said there were not enough beds for the 11,452 patients in Irish hospitals who had to spend time on trolleys in emergency departments or on wards in October.

The INMO said the numbers on trolleys in October was the second highest monthly figure since it began its daily assessment of the issue. It said the highest month on record was January 2018 at 12,395.


The INMO said that at the same time the understaffing problem among nurses and midwives was deteriorating.

The INMO said its analysis of the latest HSE workforce figures showed that since the start of 2019 there were:

* 308 fewer staff nurses

* 37 fewer public health nurses

* 87 fewer staff midwives

It said the figures showed there had been a 6 per cent drop in the staff midwife workforce over just nine months.

“Figures produced by the INMO in August found over 1,300 nursing and midwifery vacancies in the public health sector as a direct result of the HSE’s recruitment freeze. (It found) 284 of the vacancies were in midwifery – with 1 in 6 posts vacant.”

The INMO said international research had found that understaffing was linked with higher patient mortality and longer stays in hospital.

It said the National Institute for Health Research in the UK found that when nurse staffing fell below average levels on a ward, the risk of death increased by 3 per cent.

It said the research also found that each additional hour worked by nurses per patient reduced the risk of death by 3per cent .

The INMO said that in Ireland, similar trials by UCC and the Department of Health found that appropriate nurse staffing levels:

* Reduced patient mortality and length of stay

* Reduced staff burnout

* Net financial savings due to shorter stays and less agency staffing

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said: “The message from the frontline is clear: patients are being put at grave risk.

“There is no doubt that this situation will worsen as winter bites, unless staffing becomes a top priority for the government. Patients are paying the price for the HSE’s “go slow” recruitment freeze, which leaves many posts unfilled.

“I have written to the HSE to warn that their recruitment pause is putting lives at risk. “

“We need to be encouraging more nurses and midwives into our system. Instead, we are making an already bureaucratic recruitment process even more difficult. In many cases, we’re slamming the door on those who want to work in our public health system.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent