NHS Recommends Safe Nursing Levels

No Nurse ‘Should Have To Take Care Of More Than Eight Patients At Once’


The NHS has released new draft guidance that stipulates no nurse should have to take care of more than eight people on a ward during the day.

NHS executives, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) and the Department of Health are said to be worried that healthcare workers are overstretched because of increasing demand at hospitals, reports the BBC.

Although the Department of Health maintains that staffing levels have increased under the coalition government, it has reaffirmed its commitment to ensure the quality of care across all NHS sites by investigating a minimum safe staffing benchmark.

After a consultation period, a draft document from the NHS has dictated that there should be one nurse for every eight patients at minimum, but stopped short of imposing this as an absolute minimum, as it wants to ensure flexibility.

Currently, individual hospitals are allowed to set their own safe staffing levels, but there have been concerns this has led to a drop in care quality.

Nice deputy chief executive professor Gillian Leng, said: "There is no floor or ceiling number on the required number of nursing staff that can be applied across the whole of the NHS."

This, she added, could potentially be problematic, as was seen during the Stafford Hospital scandal where patients were left without food and water for long periods of time due to poor staffing levels and negligence.

Jeremy Hunt, health secretary, said: "NICE's work on staffing is a major step forward - for the first time in its history, the NHS will have the evidence it needs to make sure that nurses are able to spend enough time with their patients."

These changes will only apply to the English NHS at first, but hospitals in Scotland are already monitored and checked for their staffing levels to make sure that patients are not left without proper medical care, although there are no minimum levels required.

Expert Opinion
Patient safety is a fundamental responsibility for the NHS and the only way that steps can be taken to provide the necessary level of care is to ensure that staffing levels are at an adequate standard.

"Sadly, through our work we have seen numerous cases in which people have suffered as a result of errors or neglect which could be linked to understaffing. Patients deserve to know that they will get the support they need when in hospital, while families also deserve reassurances that the welfare of their loved ones is a top priority.

"Every effort must be made to ensure that the terrible mistakes seen in the past are never repeated."
Mandy Luckman, Partner