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Hospital patients in England should be given the power to prompt an investigation into whether there are enough staff on their ward, new NHS guidance suggests.
Patients who are given sub-standard care should be able to alert ward managers which should prompt a probe into whether there are a safe number of staff working on the ward, according to the National Institute for Health And Care Excellence (Nice).
The organisation has identified a number of so-called 'red flags' which highlight that care could be compromised. If a red flag is identified by a patient or member of staff, the new advice from the NHS is to take action immediately.
Situations which would constitute a red flag include, patients not being helped on a visit to the bathroom, patients not receiving their medication or delays of 30 minutes or more in providing pain relief.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has praised the latest guidelines from NICE, which provides recommendations for the minimum amount of nurses that should be working on a hospital ward.
Providing safe healthcare is "more complex" than setting a single ratio dictating how many patients should be assigned to each nurse, said the organisation behind NHS guidelines.
Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive at NICE said:
NHS wards should have two trained nurses working on them at all times if patients are to be looked after properly, according to fresh guidelines published by the National Institute for Health And Care Excellence (NICE).
However, NICE stopped short of proposing a minimum for all NHS hospitals to adopt and instead said staff numbers were part of a series of "red flags" patients' relatives should watch out for.
These include patients not being helped on a visit to the bathroom, not receiving their medication or delays of 30 minutes or more in providing pain relief.
NICE also warned a shortfall of 25% of the nurses normally needed for a shift should serve as a red flag to relatives.
If these red flag events are highlighted by a patient or staff member then the nurse in charge of the ward should act "immediately" to ensure that there are enough staff on the ward, Nice said.