Safe staffing dumped!

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Student nurses marching in defence of nursing bursaries – there has been a huge fall in student nurse enrolment since the abolition of the bursary

THE MAY government has dropped its key NHS ‘safe staffing’ measure.

This means that nurse staffing fill rate data are no longer being published.

This change is an attack on patient safety. The ‘safe staffing measure’ was seen as an important measure for improving safety.

It has been replaced on government websites with a ‘care hours per patient day’ measure, which nursing experts have criticised.

The publication of nurse staffing levels at each hospital in England was introduced after the Francis Inquiry to boost safety.

There is now no way to see at a glance how well hospitals are performing filling their nursing shifts.

The provision of this data was an important transparency improvement, and an important driver of safe nurse staffing levels, after the Mid Staffordshire care scandal.

The Health Service Journal HSJ reported in 2015 that more than nine out of 10 acute hospitals were failing to meet their targeted numbers, for example.

Now these figures have been removed. Instead, NHS Choices and the MyNHS website are publishing data for ‘care hours’, with MyNHS using a measure which combines registered nursing and unregistered care assistant shifts.

Former chief nurse Susan Osborne, chair of the Safe Staffing Alliance, told HSJ: ‘Care hours per patient day is flawed fundamentally as it is based on aggregated inputs with no correlation to clinical outcomes.’

She said publishing the figure with no measure of the level needed was ‘a sham and deceives patients and public regarding care needed versus care provided’.

‘It is not based on research evidence and is just a blunt tool that is distorting the truth about staffing levels,’ she said.

Jenny Hunt, a visiting professor of nursing at Anglia Ruskin University, told HSJ: ‘Clearly, the lessons of the Francis reports have been forgotten.

‘We risk another such scandal if we continue to refuse to focus on increasing the number of registered nurses rather than other care posts either through educating more, retaining more or attracting the already qualified back into the NHS.’