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National Institute for Health Research release 'Staffing on Wards' review

The nature of patient needs and ward activity is changing. Inpatients tend to be more ill than they used to be, many with complex needs often arising from multiple long-term conditions. At the same time, hospitals face the challenges of a shortage and high turnover of registered nurses. This review presents recent evidence from National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)-funded research, including studies on the number of staff needed, the support workforce and the organisation of care on the wards. While few research studies have explored the similar pressures that occur in community and social care, the learning from hospitals may be useful to decision makers in these areas.

Making decisions about optimal ward staffing is complex. There is a large body of evidence, including recent UK research, demonstrating a positive relationship between the number of registered nurses in hospital wards and patient safety. The evidence suggests the relationship is not linear and we don’t yet understand enough to determine the optimum staffing levels in individual wards. NIHR studies are shedding more light on the factors that decision makers need to take into consideration.

A number of NIHR studies have looked at different support roles and identified lack of clarity around role boundaries. Research suggests that the contribution of registered nurses is distinct from that of healthcare assistants or support workers. However, the roles do overlap and the issue of how work should be distributed needs careful consideration.

Other studies have looked at the way in which nurses work with other professions to provide care on the ward and the importance of ward leadership. Research suggests emerging roles will need careful evaluation to assess their impact on care delivery and quality.

Read the full review here

Source: NIHR

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