Nurses in Scotland are so overworked they don't have time to log staff shortages, according to a report released on Friday.

A survey of more than 1,100 nursing staff across Scotland, conducted by union UNISON for International Nurses’ Day, shows that 94 per cent of nurses have experienced short-staffing on their wards.

These issues are supposed to be recorded on an NHS system called Datix, which is designed to record critical incidents and concerns.

However, nurses responding to the survey said that they were in a 'catch-22' situation as staffing issues mean they simply do not have time to fill out the form.

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A ward nurse from the Ayrshire and Arran health board said it was "Pointless. It's a task that when you're short you would rather not do as it achieves nothing, nothing changes", while another said "No-one does anything. And if short staffed there's no time to complete it. Management know of shortages".

Others report that managers frown on use of the system.

The UNISON survey shows the overwhelming majority of nurses in Scotland have experienced understaffing on their wards on either a daily (72%) or a weekly (22%) basis, with more than 80% saying this negatively impacts upon patients’ care either frequently or regularly.


  • 94% said they had experienced short-staffing on their wards
  • 81% said short-staffing has a negative impact on patient care on a “regular or frequent” basis
  • 83% said they did not believe the Datix system used in Scotland’s NHS was an adequate tool for keeping track of Staff shortages

Wilma Brown, an NHS nurse and also chair of UNISON Scotland’s health committee, said: “This survey makes clear that NHS staff don’t have time to properly report the effect of chronic under-staffing across the NHS and the impact it is having on patients. It’s vital that staff can report the true picture, so NHS leaders can make the changes needed.

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“The situation on the ground is desperate, there are just too few nurses to be able to do the job properly and staff are struggling to provide patients with the care they deserve.

“Ministers are failing in their duty of care to both patients and staff and we need urgent action to provide a long-term solution to this crisis.”

Matt McLaughlin, UNISON Scotland’s head of health, said: “Sadly these results are no surprise. UNISON has been saying for years that the NHS incident reporting system is outdated and simply isn’t working. It’s impossible for the Scottish government to have a handle on the scale of the staffing crisis when so many incidents are going unreported.

“Employers and Government know that staff have neither time nor confidence in Datix and yet they continue to hide behind it.We need a system in place that records information in real-time and most importantly is responded to in real time. This should serve as a real wake-up call for the Chief Nursing Officer  - we need less talk and more action.”