UK Nurses Lack Access to Infection Control Training

Almost one-third of UK nursing staff have been unable to access mandatory training in key areas such as infection control, a new Royal College of Nursing survey shows. The findings raise potentially serious concerns about patient safety and are an early warning sign that cutbacks are beginning to have an impact.

More than 3000 members took part in the UK-wide survey but only just over half (55.8 percent) felt they were up to date with their training. The survey also showed that many nursing staff use annual leave to attend courses (34.2 percent) and self-fund their training (38.8 percent) in areas such as infection control, child protection and basic life support.

Members detailed their experiences on the ground as part of the survey. As one person said, “On a particular occasion I was told I could have time off, but there was no cover so I had to forego the training. I can arrange my own training, and there is a possibility my employers will pay for it. However, it will be in my own time.”

Mandatory training includes areas which are crucial for patient safety and need regular updating. Of survey respondents who said they had not had their mandatory training, the most frequent reason given was staff shortage and a lack of cover.

Janet Davies, the RCN’s executive director of nursing and service delivery, noted, “Mandatory training is there for a reason – it ensures that staff are up to date with infection control procedures, life saving techniques and good practice. It is a testament to the dedication of these nurses that they are prepared to give their own time to learn and update their practice, but many are simply unable to do this and staff should not be expected to. It is up to trusts and managers to ensure that staff are up to date and can access the training they need. Nurses are carrying out more and more tasks, but we can see they are starting to be hit by a double whammy – staff shortages and a lack of training.”