HOSPITAL chiefs say they are feeling the heat from a national shortage of NHS staff.

It comes as nursing leaders warn that the shortages mean staff are having to choose between paperwork and patient care.

In a new report, the Royal College of Nursing said more than half of nurses and midwives had seen staff shortfalls on their last shift. More than a third said they had been forced to leave necessary patient care undone for lack of time. One nurse said: "Paperwork takes priority on most shifts according to management."

Great Western Hospital managers said they had seen shortages in staff, in common with other hospitals. In February, 10 per cent of day shift hours due to be covered by registered nurses and midwives were left unfilled.

A spokeswoman for GWH said: “The NHS as a whole is currently feeling the effects of a national shortage of healthcare staff and we are obviously no exception.

“However, despite the challenges, we continue to not only make good progress in recruiting more permanent staff but also in keeping hold of our best people.

“We continue to hold recruitment days. Our next one is on Saturday, June 9, where there will be a range of opportunities on offer.”

Nursing leaders said that the problems could be solved.

Susan Masters, Royal College of Nursing's regional director, said: “The south west, like the rest of the UK, is in the grip of a recruitment crisis in nursing. A combination of issues including poor pay, the removal of bursaries, negative perception of the profession and many nursing staff reaching retirement age have played a part in getting to this point. A point the RCN has long warned we’d get to without action by the government.

"The NHS supported by Government, must develop a credible strategy to address this problem including accessible training programmes for students including mature applicants and a campaign to dispel myths and stereotypes of nursing.”

"All of us have our lives touched by nurses. The positive impact of registered nurses on safe patient care is well evidenced. For the future sustainability of the NHS and other care providers it is vital that people are encouraged and enabled into the profession.”

Dr Chaand Nagpul, chairman of doctors' group the British Medical Association, said: “The current recruitment and retention crisis across the health service is a direct result of years of chronic underfunding as both nurses and doctors feel increasingly overstretched and undervalued."

The government said it planned to train an extra 5,000 nurses a year from 2018.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: "From this year we will train 25 per cent more nurses, are committed to helping them work more flexibly to improve their work/life balance, and have awarded a pay rise of between 6.5 per cent and 29 per cent in a deal backed by the RCN."