Health campaigner, Andrew George, has warned that the decision of NHS chiefs to shelve work on safe registered nurse staffing levels on acute hospital wards would add to concerns about patient safety, lead to more excess and avoidable deaths and place intolerable stress on nurses who would leave the profession leading to greater dependence on agency nurses.
Mr George, former MP and member of the Health Select Committee, led campaigns in Parliament for safe registered nurse staffing and described Simon Stevens’ decision to roll back the work on safe staffing numbers as a ‘false economy’.
Mr Stevens has asked the Government’s Chief Nursing Officer, Jane Cummings, to amalgamate the work on safe staffing levels with other reviews covering emergency care, maternity and mental health services.
When Mr George raised issues of safe staffing with Jane Cummings she replied that, ‘we want the right staff, with the right skills in the right place at the right time’ arguing that defined registered nurse staffing ratios ‘miss the point’.
Mr George said: “The problem with the unarguable platitudes of Jane Cummings is that, although they sound agreeable and reasonable they contribute nothing and provide no answer. Who on earth is arguing that we should have ‘the wrong staff, with the wrong skills, in the wrong place at the wrong time’?! In any case, will we ever get ‘the right staff, with the right skills, in the right place, etc.,’ if we haven’t got enough of them on duty?
“Whilst the nurses have lost and the bean counters are once again victorious, I would urge them to look again at the longer game. This is a false economy. Not having enough nurses will lengthen hospital stays, make patient discharge more complex and difficult, result in avoidable deaths and higher litigation, produce higher levels of staff absence with stress, damage nurse recruitment, increase early retirement and nurse exodus and ramp up the agency nurse bill.
“This is a serious mistake. They should think this through again.”