Skip to content
Please donate

Call for minimum nurse-to-patient ratios

Published on 19 April 2013 10:30 AM

The Government has been urged to introduce minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals across the country in order create a 'safer, more caring environment'.

Unison, the public service trade union behind the call, claims rolling out minimum staffing levels would benefit patients and staff.


It said the 'life saving' initiative would ensure patients receive better care while also lightening the workload placed on hospital staff.

A recent poll of 1,500 nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants revealed that 45% were looking after eight or more patients on a typical shift, with three-fifths admitting they did not have enough time to deliver safe, dignified and compassionate patient care.

Some 85% of those surveyed said they would support the introduction of set minimum nurse-to-patient ratios.

Christina McAnea, head of health at Unison, declared that the Government cannot escape its responsibilities to the NHS by pointing the finger at staff or managers.

She blamed a lack of finance for trusts, claiming many do not have the funds they need to purchase highly expensive equipment, high-tech treatment and costly drugs that a growing and complex health service demands.

'This survey exposes a health service under severe strain, where nurses are struggling to deliver the high levels of care that they set themselves on a daily basis,' she said.

'On this typical day many staff worked through their break and stayed after their shift - but this still did not give them enough time to complete all their tasks.'

The danger of 'one size fits all' approaches

At a time when patient demand is growing, Unison claimed Government cuts were making matters worse by reducing staff numbers, including nurses.

The union stated that minimum nurse-to-patient ratios would provide a safety net of care, restore public confidence and show nursing staff that they are respected and valued.

Sue Covill, director of employment services at the NHS Employers organisation, welcomed the call for minimum staffing levels.

'Every hospital has different demands on its services and we should be alert to the dangers of some 'one size fits all' approaches,' she said. 'We believe arbitrary national minimum staffing ratios would limit how hospitals could plan resources in a way that's best for their patients.'

Copyright Press Association 2013

Share this page

Last updated: Dec 05 2018

Become part of our story

Sign up today

Back to top