We need to recognise the strain on nurses across the healthcare system

Pressures on the NHS are having a deeply concerning effect on end of life care, according to a survey of more than 600 nurses by Nursing Standard and Marie Curie.

At times of increased pressure on our hospitals, it’s vital that nurses get the support they need.

Deputy Director of Nursing for Marie Curie Anne Cleary takes a closer look at the findings of the survey, and explains what she feels they mean for people who need end of life care.

Three NHS nurses walk along a corridor.
Many nurses say they don't have the time to give as much care as they'd like to individual patients at the end of their lives.

Nurses don't get enough time with their patients

Almost two-thirds (65%) of nurses say they do not have sufficient time to provide high quality care for patients who are dying, a similar proportion to those who answered the survey last year.
Nursing Standard and Marie Curie survey

“What this survey shows is that nurses in hospitals and in the community aren’t able to spend enough time with their patients.

“They’re pulled in different directions. And they feel torn between the priorities they’re balancing.

“The strain can put real pressure on nurses and how they feel about their job."

Patients and families aren't getting the support they need

I have unfortunately experienced patients without families dying alone in rooms due to staff shortages. I am often unable to attend to families right away following the death of a loved one due to needing to administer medications.
A nurse responding to the survey

“It’s a privilege to care for people at the end of their life: being present with them, helping them not to feel alone. We know this is what people fear.

“The impact of not being able to provide a good standard of care is, of course, concerning for patients and their families and friends.

“Even the most confident person feels vulnerable when they’re ill, particularly if they’re not able to function fully without help.

“All nurses want to provide high-quality care for their patients. So to feel unable to provide that care when it’s needed – that’s hard.

“Nurses need time to step away from their work and reflect on things. A network where they can talk about those experiences and feelings is vital.”

Winter pressures on the NHS means dying patients are stranded in hospital

More than nine out of 10 (94%) UK nurses say they have seen dying patients stranded in hospital as a result of delays in funding that would have otherwise allowed them to be cared for at home or in the community.
Nursing Standard and Marie Curie survey

“Part of the pressure on hospital nurses comes from people getting stranded when they should be able to return home. This is down to the wider system.

“The NHS saw unprecedented pressures around Christmas and January across the whole system.

“Every person needs assessment and a multi-professional team to get them home, which takes organisation.

“Increased pressures made it even harder for the health and social care systems to work together effectively.”

A nurse helps an older gentleman in an armchair
Being so stretched means nurses don't always have time to attend to loved ones after a bereavement.
Almost eight out of 10 nurses (77%) feel the winter pressures have had a negative effect on the quality of care they are able to provide to dying patients.
Nursing Standard and Marie Curie survey

The NHS, social care, private and voluntary sectors need to work together

“The priority is learning from these findings – and listening to our nurses. How do we transform some of those services so that we’re not in these situations again?

“If this doesn't happen, it will just get worse and there will be more challenging times in future.

“All nurses want to provide high-quality care for their patients. But they need support too, and it’s important that’s recognised.

“To address the cause of the problems we’re facing, the whole system across the NHS, social care, and private and voluntary sectors needs to come together to make sure our models of care support our needs for the future.”

If you have a view you’d like to share, tweet us @MarieCurieEOLC. Read the full results of the survey on the Nursing Standard website   (subscribers only).

Who we are

We give care and support to people living with any terminal illness and their families, bringing light in the darkest hours.

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