Draft NHS guidance suggests patients are at risk of harm if a nurse has to care for more than eight people on a ward during the day.
In a recent article on the BBC website, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) said hospitals in England should be wary about that workload being exceeded. But it stopped short of stipulating one to eight was an absolute minimum, saying flexibility might be required.
The Department of Health said the number of front-line staff had risen. While individual hospitals are currently allowed to set their own nurse staffing levels, NICE was asked to look at the issue by ministers. They had promised to explore safe staffing levels following the public inquiry into the Stafford Hospital scandal.
NICE said in its draft guidance that in a situation where the recommended ratio of at least one nurse to eight patients had not been met, the hospital should be able to explain why.
Welcoming the announcement from NICE, Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the RCN, said:
“We are encouraged that these guidelines have been created following considerable and consistent evidence from the RCN of the danger to patients where there are too few staff. Nursing staff have long recognised the importance of safe staffing levels as part of the daily reality of providing for acutely ill patients.
The RCN has contributed to this work and is encouraged to see that the needs of patients are being placed at the centre of decisions in this area. It is crucial that needs are not only assessed but also met and that resources are made available to keep care safe. Too often, staffing levels are allowed to yo-yo because of finances, and this puts staff under strain and patients at risk.”
Find Out More
Read the full article on the BBC website or the press releases from NICE and RCN: