28 November 2023

Shortage of sickle cell nurses putting patients at risk

A new study by the Sickle Cell Society has found that a chronic shortage of sickle cell nurses is putting patients at risk.

The Difference Between Life and Death report states that “while there are undoubtedly workforce challenges across all parts of the health system… sickle cell is disproportionately impacted as a result of the legacy of under-prioritisation of sickle cell care.”

The British Society of Haematology, whose evidence is included in the report, concurs. Without a change in approach, we expect a significant shortfall in specialist nursing numbers, leading to an exhausted and stressed workforce, poor quality of patient care, poor experience and poor outcomes.

We support the Society’s recommendations for:

  • Defining and mandating a minimum specialist nurse/patient ratio
  • Increasing and making best use of funding for sickle cell services
  • Increasing sickle cell training and experience
  • Ensuring greater opportunity for nurse progression
  • Increasing collaboration and forums for mutual support
  • Adopting measures to increase specialist sickle cell nurses’ capacity

Dr Josh Wright, President of the British Society for Haematology, said: “Specialist nurses are the foundation of the service that we provide. Nurse-led clinics take an enormous load off consultants’ clinical duties and are often able to be more flexible to patients’ availability than consultant-led clinics. We call on health ministers and healthcare leaders to act on the recommendations of this report.”