Reducing staff levels puts patients at risk

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THE ROYAL Colleges, nurses, and NHS workers have reacted angrily to NHS Improvement chief executive Jim Mackey’s outrageous comments that ‘safe staffing levels had gone too far’.

Mackey made the extraordinary claim there were now too many nurses and staff to each patient and that Trusts had ‘over-recruited’. NHS workers warn that if Trusts act on Mackey’s ‘dangerous’ comments, reducing staffing levels in the NHS will be unsafe, putting patients’ lives in danger.

In an interview on Wednesday, ahead of the expected NHS financial ‘reset’ in the coming days, Mackey said 30-40 NHS trusts may have ‘over-recruited staff’ in recent years and some Royal College standards were ‘unmatchable’, adding: ‘They’re aspirations.’

He said some organisations had gone too far in trying to meet safe staffing recommendations, including going beyond the 1:8 nurse to patient ratio. He said: ‘We’ll be saying we can’t afford that, that’s not something that’s justified, there’s no evidence for it, it’s not delivering better outcomes, we expect that to be reined back.’

Royal College of Nursing chief executive Janet Davies said: ‘This gives completely the wrong message to trusts, whose boards are responsible for the care, treatment and safety of their patients, by suggesting that finances are more important than patient care.

‘These comments are seriously worrying and particularly disappointing as the RCN has been working in partnership with NHS Improvement on the National Quality Board safe staffing guidance refresh.’ She said ignoring evidence-based guidance was ‘foolhardy and places people at unnecessary risk’.

She said going above the 1:8 ratio was an alert and in many wards would be ‘completely unsafe’, adding: ‘to treat it as the optimum level is dangerous’. She said, ‘We mustn’t repeat the mistakes of the past, when staff could not properly care for patients because of financially driven cuts. Staff, patients and their families must never again be put in that position.’

Professor Neena Modi, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: ‘The comments by Jim Mackey are quite extraordinary. It would be good to see his justification given the current state of UK population health and patient care.

‘Does he believe a 22.7 per cent neonatal rota vacancy rate is acceptable, and that nearly half of paediatric vacancy posts are filled by locums? Has he appreciated that the UK is falling progressively behind the rest of Europe in delivering high quality healthcare and good patient outcomes? The College wants to see patient care improve, and is shocked at the suggestion that clinical standards can be dismissed as “aspirational”.’