Safe staffing levels now! demands RCN

RCN nurses campaigning for a properly staffed and funded NHS

NURSES at their annual RCN (Royal College of Nursing) conference in Liverpool yesterday demanded that NHSEngland finally adopts a Safe Staffing Level, requiring by law a minimum ratio of staff to patients. At the moment, the RCN warns, staffing levels are at such a crisis point that patients’ lives are being put in jeopardy.

There is a shortfall of 40,000 nurses across the country.

A new minimum staffing law was passed in Scotland earlier this month. Wales passed a safe staffing law back in 2016.

This means that England, is the last part of the UK with no safe staffing level set in law – and without a safe staffing level more patients die!

Reports found that poor nurse staffing levels increase mortality by up to 26 per cent, compared to better staffed wards.

The ‘gold standard’ ratio of one registered nurse to one patient was set in 1967.

This continued to be the standard for decades, until revised guidance, Standards for Nurse Staffing in Critical Care (2009).

This is something which both the leadership of the doctors’ union the BMA and the leadership of the nurses’ union the RCN went along with at the time!

NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) does not recommend a safe staffing ratio between patients and nurses.

Instead it states: ‘There is no single nursing staff-to-patient ratio that can be applied across the whole range of wards to safely meet patients’ nursing needs. Each ward has to determine its nursing staff requirements to ensure safe patient care.

‘The emphasis should be on safe patient care not the number of available staff.’

RCN leader Donna Kinnair yesterday demanded tougher rules on safe staffing be introduced immediately to save patients lives.

Meanwhile, a new report from the RCN and the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) calls for urgent investment in District Nursing, as new figures show the number of District Nurses working in the NHS dropped by almost 43 per cent in England alone in the last ten years.

As a result, there are only some 4,000 District Nurses providing care for a population of around 55.8 million in England, a ratio of only one for every 14,000 people. This compares with one GP for every 1,600 people.

The report, Outstanding Models of District Nursing, published yesterday, calls for a commitment to investment and training to meet the challenges caused by simultaneous rising patient demand and falling numbers of these highly-qualified staff.