OVERWORKED doctors and nurses are having to be reminded to eat and drink during their shifts as staff continue to struggle under pressure from the workforce shortage.

Oxfordshire hospital chiefs have admitted that staff are as stretched as they have ever been, with many so busy they either don't have time or forget to rehydrate or eat.

The matter has now been raised as a patient safety issue with Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH) launching a campaign to encourage front line workers to take proper breaks.

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Oxfordshire's NHS has struggled to recruit enough doctors and nurses for years leaving hospitals such as the John Radcliffe and the Churchill facing a staffing crisis.

Chief nurse at OUH, Sam Foster, said the acute workforce shortages in nursing and midwifery in particular had never been as bad, meaning staff were being asked to take on heavier workloads.

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She added: "The health and wellness of our staff is really important to us at the trust, which is why we’ve taken this initiative.

"We haven’t had any reported incidents of patient care being compromised due to staff not taking breaks.

"However, we want our staff to be aware of the importance of self-care, hydration, and eating well to make sure they’re looking after themselves – which in turn helps them to look after our patients."

Oxford Mail:

Many nurses at the trust work 12-hour shifts and so the effects of failing to properly re-hydrate could be quite severe, Ms Foster said.

And while all staff are asked to take note of the campaign, Ms Foster said the main focus was junior doctors and nurses.

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She added: "We introduced our Think, Pause, Recharge campaign, which is in line with the Royal College of Nursing’s national campaign, to raise staff awareness of the importance of taking a full break and making sure they have enough to eat and drink.

"We’re making sure that managers have the capacity to manage, organise, and sustain staff breaks.

"We’ve also created posters and Do Not Disturb signs to be displayed in break areas."

On Monday it was revealed how, according to the NHS Staff Survey 2018, 62 per cent of OUH staff worked unpaid extra hours, while hundreds admitted that work-related stress had made them ill in the last year.

More than 5,700 staff took part in the survey, representing almost half of the OUH workforce.

OUH is currently in the middle of an international recruitment drive and has so far made 300 live offers of employment to foreign nurses as bosses desperately try to fill front line vacancies.