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'Safe staffing' order for hospitals

Published on 19 November 2013 02:00 PM

Every hospital in England will soon have to set safe staffing levels on wards, the Department of Health has announced.

The move, which will come into effect from next April, aims to ensure that every patient receives an adequate amount of care during their stay.


It is part of the Government's formal response to the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry.

Up to 1,200 patients may have died needlessly

The inquiry, chaired by Robert Francis QC, highlighted the 'appalling and unnecessary suffering' of hundreds of people at Stafford Hospital between 2005 and 2009.

Up to 1,200 patients may have died needlessly after they were 'routinely neglected' on site, with some left lying in their own waste for days, forced to drink water from vases or given the wrong medication.

'We have a very clear evidence of a link between appropriate staffing and the outcomes of our patients,' said Jane Cummings, NHS England's chief nursing officer.

'This evidence must be used to set staffing levels locally. Patients and the public are therefore entitled to know that we have the right number of people in place to provide safe, quality care every time.

'Hospitals will have to publish this information - at ward level - and present the evidence they have used to determine staffing levels in public.'

'This evidence must be used to set staffing levels locally'

When publishing the information, hospitals will have to include the percentage of shifts that meet safe staff levels.

Patients will then be able to see their hospital's staffing levels on a new patient safety website, which will also display data on other safety indicators like the number of 'never events' - events that should never happen in the health service such as a surgeon operating on the wrong part of the body or leaving medical kit inside of a patient.

'This is the right way to ensure there is rigour around decisions that are taken,' added Ms Cummings. 'As well as to provide hospitals and other services with the flexibility they need to get the right staff in the right place.'

The Care Quality Commission will inspect hospital trusts and make sure they have the right numbers of staff, while NHS England is to appoint 5,000 'patient safety fellows' who will be champions in patient safety.

All staff must have 'proper skills to care for older people'

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director for Age UK said: 'We must not forget that many of those who suffered at mid Staffs were older people. 65% of those in hospital beds at any one time are aged 65 and over. They will often be frail, with dementia and with complex needs. To avoid another tragedy we must ensure our hospitals are equipped to care for these older people with skill and compassion.

'While it's important that every hospital and ward has enough nurses,  it is equally critical that the NHS ensures that all staff - every doctor, nurse and health care assistant - has the proper skills to care for older people who are the majority of their patients. This must be an essential part of routine training for everyone who works with patients in a hospital if we are to provide the care to which the NHS aspires.
'It also means patients and their families must be full partners in decisions about how they are treated, and that their concerns are listened to and, where appropriate, acted upon. We see some moves in this direction but we need to go much further and faster. 

'We are very pleased that the Government is funding the Malnutrition Taskforce,  of which Age UK is a leading member, to pilot ways of preventing and tackling undernourishment and dehydration among older people, in hospitals and in the community. The image of older people desperate with thirst and hunger at mid Staffs will haunt us for a very long time. We hope the Taskforce can help to ensure such an appalling situation never happens again.'

Copyright Press Association 2013

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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