Thousands of “excess hospital deaths”, safe staffing is priority – MP

Posted on: 15th January 2014

A Member of the Commons Health Select Committee will warn that there will continue to be more thousands of excess hospital deaths each year due to there being insufficient registered nurses on hospital wards.

The Liberal Democrat MP for the West Cornwall and Isles of Scilly constituency of St Ives, Andrew George, will tell the Commons on Wednesday 15th January (at approximately 7pm) that inadequate numbers of registered nurses on hospital wards doesn’t just result in high levels of excess deaths, as seen at Mid Staffordshire General Hospital, but that it is a false economy, with patients taking longer to recover, more likely to sustain complications, other illnesses, pressure sores etc. costing the NHS more.

Mr George has called a debate tomorrow evening on the subject of “Staffing of Acute Hospital Wards”. Health Minister Dr Daniel Poulter MP will respond. Mr George will refer to research undertaken and collated by the Safe Staffing Alliance (whose members include the Florence Nightingale Foundation, Nursing Standards, Patients Association, Royal College of Nursing). The Alliance has warned that a “ratio of more than 8 patients per registered nurse significantly increases the risk of harm and constitutes a breach in patient safety which should be escalated for investigation.”

Mr George will argue, using evidence gathered by the Alliance, that “inadequate staffing of hospital wards contributes to an estimate of at least 4,000 excess hospital deaths each year.”

The issue of safe staffing was a key finding of the inquiry into failings in the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust undertaken by Robert Francis QC. It was also highlighted by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh in his “Review into the quality of care and treatment provided by 14 hospital trusts in England” published in July last year and by Professor Don Berwick in his “Improving the Safety of Patients in England” report published in August last year.

Mr George has consistently pressed Ministers to introduce clear guidance setting out a “fundamental standard” where a limit of 8 patients to each registered nurse – excluding the nurse in charge – should never be breached.

Mr George said: “The 1 to 8 ratio should trigger alarm bells. The Safe Staffing Alliance does not believe the 1:8 ratio to be a target and, in normal circumstances, 1 to 7 should be the limit. However, the most recent official estimate suggests that up to 43% of hospital wards have registered nurse staffing levels lower than the proposed 1 to 8 “fundamental standard”. My estimate of 4,000 excess deaths is a conservative estimate.

“One of the key lessons from recent inquiries and studies is that registered nurses deserve clearer guidance to protect and assist them when they “blow the whistle” on unsafe staffing levels.”



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