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.
This is a major step forward for NHS safety. As a result of this new guidance the NHS will be able to give safer care and patients can have confidence that the right number of nursing staff are on duty.
It will also help hospitals to balance their books - for every fall avoided because a nurse was on hand to help, Nice estimates another £1,400 is saved.
Recent years have seen a big jump in nursing numbers in hospital wards, with 6,200 more nurses since 2010. Today's guidance will help the NHS use staff as effectively as possible.
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:
Safe staffing is more complex than setting a single ratio. The emphasis should not just be on the available number of staff, it should be on delivering safe patient care and making sure that hospital management and nursing staff are absolutely clear on best practice to do this.
The reason why there is no single one-to-eight figure is because that will be seen as the figure that should be applied across all wards where we know that one to eight is not going to be enough in many scenarios.
A single figure is not appropriate if we want to deliver the right level of care for patients.
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.
Patients with a drinking problem could be offered a once-a-day pill to curb their cravings for alcohol, according to fresh guidelines.
The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) wants Nalmefene to be available to heavy drinkers on the NHS, who they feel would benefit from the effects of the drug.
Nalmefene modulates the reward mechanism in the brain, dulling the craving for a drink.
The draft guidance from Nice states Nalmefene should be available as an option for those who are heavy drinkers but not those who require immediate detoxification.
Thousands of patients suffering the deadliest form of skin cancer could see their lifespan increased by a pioneering new drug.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has recommended that Ipilimumab, marketed as Yervoy and hailed as a turning point in cancer treatment, should be made available as a first-line treatment for those with advanced melonoma.
Nice was previously criticised for ruling the drug should only be offered to patients who had already undergone chemotherapy or were taking part in clinical trials.
But new evidence has shown that the lifespan of those treated with the drug could increase by up to three years.
"Some of these results are really astonishing; almost jaw-dropping," said consultant medical oncologist Dr David Chao, from Royal Hampstead NHS Trust in London.
Final Nice guidance on ipilimumab is due to be issued on July 23.
Prostate cancer patients' charity Tackle has welcomed health watchdog Nice's draft approval of making a life-extending drug available on the NHS.
A spokesman for the charity said:
This offers a vital lifeline to thousands of men facing death sentences due to the very limited options for treatment if chemotherapy has failed.
Enzalutamide has shown great success treating men with advanced prostate cancer beyond the stage at which conventional hormone treatment or docetaxel chemotherapy is effective.
Health officials have given a life-extending drug the green light for widespread NHS, giving hope to thousands of men facing a "death sentence" from prostate cancer.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said the drug enzalutamide, also known as xtandi, should be considered for use in the treatment of men with hormone relapsed prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
Nice said in its draft guidance that it was pleased to recommend the drug, which is manufactured by Astellas Pharma, for patients who have few other treatment options left.
A patient using the breast cancer drug Kadcyla, which could be blocked from routine NHS access because it is too expensive, told ITV News the treatment had improved her quality of life.
"I was in quite a bad state, and within about two cycles my life felt like it had turned a corner. I was able to do things I wasn't able to do prior to being on this treatment," Mani said of the drug, which currently costs around £90,000 per patient.
The chief executive of health watchdog Nice told ITV News he is "disappointed" that drug manufacturer Roche has not offered the NHS a discount on a breast cancer drug that costs around £90,000 per patient.
Kadcyla, which extends women's lives by almost six months, could be blocked from routine NHS access because it is too expensive.
"Companies can discount their prices and they frequently do. Given the list price. I would have expected the company to have at least considered (a discount)," Andrew Dillon said.