Nurse staffing at an 'unsafe' level

Patient care is unsafe on wards with each registered nurse regularly looking after more than eight patients, according to nursing leaders. Safe and Sound, the Safe Staffing Alliance, says the figure is based on hard evidence.

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Minister: Hospitals responsible for nurse staffing level

A new chief inspector of hospitals would be empowered to take action if hospitals are found to be compromising patient care with insufficient staffing, the Government has said.

Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said hospitals were responsible for their own levels of staff numbers.

It is for hospitals themselves to decide how many nurses they employ, and they are best placed to do this.

Nursing leaders have been clear that hospitals should publish staffing details and the evidence to show that staff numbers are right for the care needs of the patients that they look after.

Overall, the number of clinical staff in the NHS has risen and the number of admin staff has fallen by 18,000.

– Dr Dan Poulter

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SSA: "More than 8 patients per nurse is unsafe'

The survey by Nursing Standard and the Sunday Mirror also found that almost half of nurses had seen patients suffer as a result of services being cut.

For the sake of clarity, more than eight patients per registered nurse is the level considered to be unsafe and putting patients at risk. It is not a recommended minimum.

For nurses to provide compassionate care which treats patients with dignity and respect, higher levels will be needed and these should be determined by every health care provider.

– Safe and Sound, the Safe Staffing Alliance statement

But 57.5% of nurses said they were still proud to work for the NHS.

Nursing leaders are united on patient safety issue

Speaking on behalf of Safe and Sound, the Safe Staffing Alliance, Professor Elizabeth Robb, chief executive of the Florence Nightingale Foundation, said nursing leaders were united in standing up for patient safety.

For the first time ever, nursings leadership is united on this. We are coming together to stand up for patient safety and for the profession.

We are saying that, with a ratio of one registered nurse to more than eight patients, there is a significantly increased risk of harm. We hope that by coming up with a figure we will give directors of nursing the evidence they need to argue for the staffing levels necessary to provide good care.

If government are saying that staffing levels are a local decision, then it is more important than ever to set out clear guidance.

– Professor Elizabeth Robb, chief executive of the Florence Nightingale Foundation

Patients said staff and nurses were overworked

Hospital units with worse staffing levels could expect more excess deaths, nursing leaders said.

A national nursing survey found that wards are run with one registered nurse to eight patients or more approximately 40% of the time.

Patients said they thought all staff, and in particular nurses, were overworked. Credit: Rui Vieira/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of The Patients Association, pointed out that in the latest Care Quality Commission inpatient survey (CQC 2012) staffing levels were a key issue raised by patients.

Patients said they thought all staff, and in particular nurses, were overworked.A frequent comment was that staff were caring but that they did not have enough time for you.

The fact is without adequate staffing levels, overstretched nurses are not able to give patients the care they need.

Nursing leaders question 'unsafe' staffing levels

Patient care is unsafe on wards where each registered nurse is regularly looking after more than eight patients, according to nursing leaders.

Safe and Sound, the Safe Staffing Alliance, made up of senior expert nurses, says the 1:8 figure is based on hard evidence and they have issued new recommendations that under no circumstances should staffing be allowed to fall below that level.

A study by researchers at Southampton University, Kings College London and the National Nursing Research Unit found that hospitals with eight patients per registered nurse (during the day time on general acute wards) would see around 20 extra deaths a year more than better staffed hospitals.

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