Nurse staffing targets not being met
The HSJ has reported that; “Almost every NHS acute hospital in England is failing to meet its own nurse staffing targets.”
Analysis of quarterly hospital-level staffing data by the Health Service Journal has found that 214 acute hospitals – 96% of those reporting – failed to meet their own planned level for registered nurses working during the day in October 2016.
Meanwhile, 85% – 190 hospitals – missed their target for nurses working at night in the same month.
The HSJ reported; “The majority of hospitals below their planned staffing levels for nurses were at or above plan for healthcare assistant staffing, suggesting some sites might be filling gaps in the nursing workforce with less qualified staff. In all eight quarters, the majority of hospitals exceeded their planned HCA staffing levels, with even more exceeding their HCA plans at night.”
Professor Peter Griffiths, from Southampton University and who was a member of the NHS Improvement safe staffing committee for acute wards, said: “This is clearly not a good place for the NHS to be and it isn’t getting any better.”
He said using HCAs to fill gaps in nurse staffing could be a reasonable strategy. However, he added: “If that becomes a long term approach to filling gaps you could very easily delude yourself that you’re maintaining safety because you’re maintaining numbers. But actually all the research shows the key workforce for maintaining the safety of patients is the registered nursing workforce, so there is the risk of a false reassurance.”
Professor Alison Leary, head of workforce modelling at London South Bank University, said: “The overall trend shows organisations bolstering nurse gaps with HCAs. This might seem like the only practical solution at the time and could be seen as someone being better than no one. However, when that becomes the norm, we have to consider the inherent risk given the evidence that registered nurses have direct benefits for patient safety."
“Added to this is how trusts worked out staffing in the first place – 80% staffing might be tolerable in areas that have carefully thought through staffing and the risk, but 80% on much lower establishments is concerning,”
Health Service Journal 20th January 2017
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