Health Ministers must support safe staffing

Posted on: 13th May 2013

Liberal Democrat Health Select Committee member, Andrew George, will meet Health Minister, Dr Dan Poulter MP, tomorrow (Tuesday 14th May) to urge the Government to support the campaign for clear guidance on safe registered nurse staffing levels on hospital wards.

Mr George will be joined by Professor Elizabeth Robb, the Chief Executive of the Florence Nightingale Foundation – a key member of the Safe Staffing Alliance which published a report yesterday (Sunday 12th May) – International Nurses Day (and the birth day of Florence Nightingale) – which called for a “fundamental” standard ratio of one registered nurse to eight patients as a base below which “under no circumstances” should staffing be allowed to fall below.

A study by researchers at Southampton University, Kings College London and the National Nurse Research Unit found that hospitals with eight patients per registered nurse would see around 20 extra deaths a year more than better staffed hospitals.  Those units with worse staffing levels could expect more “excess” deaths on their wards.  A national nursing survey found that wards are run with one registered nurse to eight patients or more approximately 40% of the time.

Mr George has been campaigning for an at least established guidance level of registered nurses to patients on hospital wards in recent years and has pressed Health Ministers to accept this as standard.

Mr George said, “Everything from the Mid Staffs inquiry to regulatory reports have repeated the theme that unrealistic nurse staffing levels on hospital wards put nurses under intolerable pressure, result in poor care standards and significantly worse patient outcomes.

“This problem is not new to this Government but the situation has got no better in recent years.  Attempts by Ministers and others to blame the nurses themselves rather than to admit that staffing levels are inadequate have diverted attention away from this key issue.  Ministers and managers talk of ‘culture’ and ‘leadership’ have introduced a new ‘Chief Inspector of Hospitals’ and are now telling nurses that they must complete up to a year working as a care assistant before qualifying as a registered nurse.  All of this looks like political froth when compared to the essential substance of meeting the need for adequate registered nurse staffing levels.”


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