No mandatory safe staffing levels for the NHS!

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Royal College of Nurses rally against cuts to keep patients safe
Royal College of Nurses rally against cuts to keep patients safe

THE TORY coalition Government’s announcement that they will publish NHS staffing levels on a website are a cover to ‘provide any level of nursing care on the wards that they see fit’, said BMA member Anna Athow yesterday.

Christina McAnea, Unison Head of Health, said that the government ‘has missed the opportunity to introduce mandatory safe staffing levels which would be a revolutionary change in patient care.’

She added: ‘There is no doubt that some hospitals have become dangerously under-staffed because of government cuts.’

BMA member Athow warned: ‘Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, has announced that hospital trusts must publish their ward staffing levels once a month.

‘This is being presented as a great step forward in improving standards of hospital care.

‘On examination of the details, Hunt’s proposals actually sanction the status quo, whereby hospital trusts can provide any level of nursing care on the wards that they see fit.

‘There are to be no national standards set for staffing levels on different wards, although such standards have been set by hospitals abroad.

‘For example, in some Australian and American states it is recommended that medical and surgical wards should have one nurse to five patients; children’s wards one nurse to four patients; high dependency one nurse for two patients; and intensive care one to one.

‘Hunt has stated that because some targets have caused distortions of care, that therefore all targets are bad. This is absolute nonsense.

‘Unless statutory nurse staffing levels are prescribed, including the proportion of trained to untrained nurses, the terrible abuses which took place at Mid Staffs and many other hospitals cannot be addressed.’

Unison’s Christina McAnea, said: ‘The government has missed another opportunity to introduce fixed, safe nurse to patient ratios.

‘There is safety in numbers when it comes to caring for patients and this one step would bring about a revolutionary change on the wards. Recommending a “toolkit” to set minimum staffing levels is fine, but what will happen if these are ignored when wards are under pressure, which is almost a daily occurrence in today’s NHS.

‘It shames this government that it has waited so long to announce that it is to recruit 3,700 more nurses – which still falls short of the 6,000 that have disappeared from the NHS since the coalition came to power.

‘There is no doubt that some hospitals have become dangerously under-staffed because of government cuts. It has ignored the warning signs and the calls from hospital managers, staff, patients and unions that more nursing staff are needed urgently.’

Dr Mark Porter, Chair of BMA Council, representing the views of the BMA leadership, disagreed with the introduction of mandatory safe staffing levels.

He said: ‘Centrally imposed mandatory staffing levels would be difficult to implement as they fail to recognise that not every patient is the same and, as such, safe levels will vary from time to time across hospitals.’

Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said the RCM ‘broadly welcomes’ Hunt’s proposals, saying: ‘Overall, this is a robust and comprehensive response by the government.’