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Nurse Staffing and Skill Mix update from the RCN

Howard Catton Head of Policy The Royal College of Nursing spoke at today’s Safe Staffing conference on:

• nursing staffing levels and skill mix: getting it right for patients
• the evidence: linking with outcomes and mortality to demonstrate the importance of regular staffing reviews to guarantee safe staffing numbers and high quality care
• nurse staffing levels and patient safety: should there be guaranteed staffing levels?
• implementing the findings of the Mid Staffordshire Inquiry and the Government Response: ensuring the lessons are learnt

In his presentation Howard began by discussing why staffing is so important stating that the right numbers equals safe patients and safe nurses.  He then outlined the evidence supporting this and the policy response to date including that of the NQB, CNO, NICE, CQC and Safer Staffing Alliance.  

Howard explained how it’s not just about the right numbers but the right skill mix and drew on the situation in mental health, A&E and on the increase in agency spending.  Howard discussed policy challenges for safe staffing moving forward including the 5 year Forward View, 7 days services and integrated health and social care.

Howard made the following points:

- royal college of nursing didn't know NICE announcement was coming
- when nurses are over stretched and have to make clinical decisions other nursing areas suffer
- bring NHS providers into the conversation
- CQC Essential Standard: this is very helpful and is often forgotten
- if we rush to cut staffing we could go back to pre-Staffirdshire
- need to go back to the Francis Executive Summary.Page 68 in the Fundamental Standards section he talks about staffing level recommendations
- NICE withdrawal could be taking away a fundamental building block from the Francis recommendations
- 'crisis' is an overused term but I can make a strong case that there is a crisis
- 30,000 prospective nurse applicants turned away because of lack of places, I feel 2-3k of these would have made the grade if places available
- the risk of stopping the NICE involvement: if not a review and NICE not reinstated what happens? Need a discussion into the tipping point, do we close beds, close wards, increase waiting times? Not advocating this but have a better idea than ever as to our safe staffing levels

Howards full presentation is available for download at the end of this page.

qualified as a registered nurse in 1988 and held a variety of nursing posts in England and the United States.  He studied social policy in Cardiff (BSc Econ) and Industrial Relations at Warwick (MA) and has worked as a Personnel and Organisational Change Manager in the NHS.

Howard has held a variety of posts at the RCN, including Regional Officer and as a national policy adviser for workforce research and health policy.  He has worked for the New Zealand Nursing Organisation and the International Council of Nurses in Geneva.

Howard also served as a local Government Councillor for 7 years, for five of which he was Cabinet member with lead responsibility for corporate and customer services.

In 2005, he was appointed Head of Policy at the RCN and Head of Policy & International in 2010.  His department work with a wide range of stakeholders, including government and think tanks, on the development and implementation of policy at home and overseas to ensure nursing influence and voice.  The department also leads on supporting the RCN’s sister nursing associations and alliances internationally.  

Future related events:

Safe Midwife Staffing in Maternity Settings
Monday 6 July 
Hallam Conference Centre, London

Improving Physical Health for People with Mental Health Conditions
Monday 14 September 
Hallam Conference Centre, London

Effective Ward Manager
Monday 14 September 
Hallam Conference Centre, London

Nursing Staffing Levels and Skill Mix In Accident and Emergency Departments
Monday 9 November 
Hallam Conference Centre, London

Safe Staffing for Nursing in Mental Health Inpatient Units
Monday 16 November 
Hallam Conference Centre, London

Download: Howard Catton full presentation

8 June 2015


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