Hunt ‘No’ To Setting NHS Staffing Levels

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Campaigners to keep Lewisham Hospital open celebrate the High Court’s decision that Health Secretary Hunt was breaking the law with his decision to run down the A&E and other departments in the hospital
Campaigners to keep Lewisham Hospital open celebrate the High Court’s decision that Health Secretary Hunt was breaking the law with his decision to run down the A&E and other departments in the hospital

THE Unison trade union has welcomed the Cameron-commissioned Berwick Review of patient safety and said that the government should listen to it.

Unison said: ‘The government should listen to the strong message in the Review that “fear is toxic”, and stop running down the NHS and start turning the recommendations into action.’

Unison Head of Nursing Gail Adams said: ‘We are pleased that the Review recognises the link between patient safety and having enough staff with the right skills on the wards.’

She stressed: ‘Unison will continue its call for safe nurse-to-patient ratios to be introduced for the benefit of patients and staff.

‘For too long, many staff have been ignored when it comes to getting access to continuous training to the detriment of the whole service.’

Chair of the BMA Council, Dr Mark Porter, said: ‘We support Professor Berwick’s call for patient care to be made paramount and for a culture of support, not blame, to empower staff.’

He cautioned: ‘We need to examine further the proposals for new criminal offences and work with the Department of Health to see if these add anything further to the existing sanctions.

‘There are already a number of ways in which healthcare workers, including doctors, can be held to account for their actions and we support Professor Berwick’s decision not to call for a new statutory duty of candour for individuals.’

Dr Porter concluded: ‘The government must also ensure that their programme of cuts across the NHS does not lead to any further reductions in the number of NHS staff whose role it is to provide care.’

The report by US President Barack Obama’s former health adviser, said the NHS remained an ‘international gem’ and could be the safest system in the world.

Berwick said: ‘Government, Health Education England and NHS England should assure that sufficient staff are available to meet the NHS’s needs now and in the future.

‘Healthcare organisations should ensure that staff are present in appropriate numbers to provide safe care at all times and are well-supported.

‘Everyone in the NHS should be able to come to work every day knowing they will be treated with respect, supported to do their work and expand their skills, and be appreciated for what they do.

‘Boards and leaders of provider organisations should take responsibility for ensuring that clinical areas are adequately staffed in ways that take account of varying levels of patient acuity and dependency, and that are in accord with scientific evidence about adequate staffing.

‘People should work in well-structured teams. Trusts should be keeping a close eye on staffing levels to make sure patient care is not suffering.’

Berwick also called for more co-operation between the various regulators and management bodies in the NHS.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he would be seeking to act on the recommendations.

But he added that he cannot tell hospitals to increase staffing levels.

Hunt rejected the call for fixed staff levels: ‘I don’t believe that I, at the centre, should tell every hospital “you should recruit this many doctors or this many nurses”.

‘A targets culture where there are lots of things imposed from the centre can be very counter-productive.’