The health watchdog says nurses should not look after more than eight patients, but warns that the ratio is not a "magic number".
Nursing numbers 'should be checked daily', say agroup of cross-party MPs
More than half of nurses think their ward or unit is dangerously understaffed, a Nursing Times survey revealed today.
Welcoming the consultation from Nice that proposes nurses should care for a maximum of eight patients at any one time, NHS England's Chief Nursing Officer said a "sophisticated approach" was needed in hospitals.
– Jane Cummings, NHS England's Chief Nursing Officer
Each ward in each hospital around the country is different in size, number of patients, the type of patients and their needs.
It needs a sophisticated approach, using hard evidence and local professional judgement to determine what staffing is right to provide the best care for patients in every setting.
These Nice guidelines are a fundamental part of this sophisticated approach and I look forward to feedback from the public consultation.
The deputy chief executive of the NHS standards watchdog has insisted that having one nurse to every eight patients is not a "magic number".
Gillian Leng of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence told ITV News that in many cases, such as in intensive care units, nurses should be caring for much fewer than eight patients at a time.
The number of NHS nurses on some wards is "wholly unsatisfactory" in "far too many cases", the head of the Royal College of Nurses has told ITV News.
However, Dr Peter Carter also warned that a new minimum standard of having eight patients for each nurse on duty would not solve staffing problems.
Dr Carter said that on some wards the ratio should be as low as one nurse per patient.
The Department of Health has defended the Government's record on nurses after the body that sets NHS standards warned that nurses risk being overburdened with too many patients.
A DoH spokeswoman said:
"There are over 5,100 more nurses on our wards since 2010 and in response to the Francis Inquiry we have been tough on insisting on compassionate care in our hospitals."
Nice's deputy chief executive, Professor Gillian Leng is expected to say that hospitals should not see Nice's new recommended 1:8 ratio as a limitation, but that not doing so would overload nurses and risk harming patients.
Leng will also tell hospitals that nurses need to be constantly on the alert for "red flag events", such as patients not receiving help to go to the bathroom or not receiving pain medication, which can trigger an immediate need for more nurses on the wards.
Nice has accepted much the main arguments made by groups like the Safe Staffing Alliance, which campaigned for no more than one nurse to eight adult inpatients.
The watchdog spent months looking at evidence on the impact staff numbers have on the quality and the safety of the care patients receive.
Susan Osborne, the chair of the Safe Staffing Alliance, which includes the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the health union Unison and the Patients Association, said: "A 1:8 ratio still means that the nurse only has seven and a half minutes per patient per hour, which is too little.
"If it's more than eight then patients won't get fed, care plans won't get written, and nurses can't sit and talk to patients and reassure them about their condition. Care just won't be given to a proper standard, and patients can die."
The organisation which sets NHS standards has said that nurses in hospitals should not have to look after more than eight patients each at any one time.
Following concerns about standards of patient care in the aftermath of the Mid Staffs scandal, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) is to warn that any higher workload place on registered nurses' would put patients' safety could be put at risk.
The regulator's move will ramp up pressure on hospitals, to hire more staff to tackle shortages even though many have little spare money, according to a report in the Guardian.
The NHS is so understaffed it feels "more like a conveyor belt" a frustrated nurse has told Good Morning Britain.
The nurse said she had put a patient's life at risk "on many occasions" because she does not have time to monitor their vital signs.
She added: "I have been on duty where there has been one nurse to 14 patients. Elderly patients, who are totally dependent on you for their care needs."
It is "no surprise" that 82% of nurses who said they did not have enough time to provide adequate patient care, according to a health chief.
Chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, Dr Peter Carter said:
– Dr Peter Carter
This survey will sadly come as no surprise to nurses. Our members tell us that they are working extra hours just to get the essentials done but the NHS can't function on goodwill and commitment alone.
Nurses want to come to work and make a difference. It is hugely demoralising, not to mention potentially unsafe, if staff can't deliver for all their patients.
There is evidence of hospitals heeding the warnings of the Francis report and taking on more staff, but this is from a very low base at a time when demands are rising fast.