Patients are missing out on safe and compassionate care due to a shortage of NHS staff, according to a new poll.
Almost half (45%) of more than 15,000 frontline NHS surveyed by the Unison union said there were not enough workers on their shift to ensure a safe, dignified and compassionate service.
A breakdown showed that acute inpatient wards were hardest hit, with 59% of more than 2,300 employees surveyed in these units saying staffing levels were insufficient.
Some 45% of people working in mental health thought the same, as did 36% in community health.
The poll was carried out over a 24-hour period last September to give a snapshot of the NHS on a single day.
Almost half of those surveyed (47%) said their service relied on bank or agency staff to help plug the gaps, mainly to fill nursing roles.
One in seven (14%) respondents rated the quality of care as “compromised” and one in six (15%) said “patient safety was put at risk”.
Other findings showed that 38% of NHS staff worked longer than their scheduled hours, in many cases for no extra money.
Almost one in six (16%) were subjected to violence, aggression and/or verbal abuse during their shift and 26% reported extremely high stress levels.
NHS figures published in November showed thousands of NHS jobs are vacant.
The service is short of almost 41,000 nurses, with the total number of vacancies for all jobs close to 103,000.
Unison is calling for more Government funding to fill the gaps, alongside mandatory safe staffing levels to ensure patient safety.
Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: “This survey shows the extent to which crisis-level staffing has become normal across the whole NHS.
“These are long-term, systemic factors not being properly addressed.
“The Government must give the system the funding needed to tackle these issues.
“But, hearteningly, it also shows the dedication and compassion these hard-working committed staff continue to show at the most trying times.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We want the NHS to be the safest healthcare system in the world and record numbers of dedicated NHS staff make sure that patients receive excellent care.
“We are supporting them by opening 25% more training places for doctors, nurses and midwives, giving a significant pay rise to over a million staff, and listening to the issues that matter to them.
“As part of our Long-Term Plan for the NHS, backed by an extra £20.5 billion a year, we will launch a Workforce Implementation Plan later this year, to ensure the NHS has the staff it needs both now and in the future.”