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CNO backs readiness of new transparency initiative on staffing levels

The chief nursing officer for England claims her team is doing more to improve staffing levels than has ever been done before.

“We’ve done more on staffing in the past 18 months than has ever been done on a national level ever before,” said Jane Cummings yesterday at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual conference.

“We’ve never had enough nurses and we’ve always wanted more”

Jane Cummings

She highlighted progress towards the regular publication of trust staffing numbers on the NHS Choices website, which is due to begin on 24 June.

She told delegates that staffing numbers had now been uploaded to the website from “nearly” every single organisation in the country, in preparation for publication.

Ms Cummings noted that the figures were “not comparable yet” and acknowledged that the initiative “doesn’t meet everyone’s expectations”.

But she said it was a move in the right direction and would be strengthened by the publication later this year of guidance on safe staffing by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

“When NICE publishes its guidance, there is an expectation that everyone will publish staffing levels and justify them,” she said. “And then we need to make sure we’ve got enough staff in these areas.”

She said the increased focus on staffing levels was now linked to outputs, such as the culture of an organisation, how safe it was to speak up and how staff were supported when they did.

Ms Cummings also admitted staff shortages had always plagued the nursing profession.

“We’ve never had enough nurses and we’ve always wanted more. But we are much further than we were, and for the first time we have this real attention to detail,” she told the conference.

“If you want to change culture, give nurses ownership”

Andrea Spyropoulos

The CNO said another concern was how to support staff to stay in their job and their profession if they felt tired, disempowered and unable to speak out.

“We ignore staff experience at our peril,” she said while giving the annual Mary Seacole lecture at RCN Congress in Liverpool.

Thanking her at the end of the speech, RCN president Andrea Spyropoulos said she was skeptical about the impact of recording staffing numbers for the NHS Choices website.


Andrea Spyropoulos

“Asking staff to record staffing levels is a bit like giving a thirsty man a diagram to draw a well,” she said.

“If you want to change culture, give nurses ownership,” she said. “When you give them ownership, they make good decisions, they will ensure they have staff but they will not overstaff.”

Ms Cummings said this was part of the plan but Ms Spyropoulos said: “Yes, but I would like it in legislation, as I don’t trust the politicians.”

Readers' comments (11)

  • Absolutely agree with Ms Spyropoulos. I had an opportunity to ask Ms Cummings her opinion on regulated staffing levels and she was opposed - apparently on the basis all hospitals were different and co morbidities in many regions were different so any perceived value could not be measured.

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  • Come on Jane - comorbidites are different regionally? So you won't be signing up to anymore national strategies then?

    Try and remember you're a nurse not a politician Jane.

    Why not represent and reflect your profession rather than the government you work for?

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  • These people like Cummings ( sorry can't call her a nurse) are unable to articulate unless they have a graph, a chart or a flow diagram backed up by pages and pages of non speak numbers and targets.

    Better still if all the analysis runs into pages and pages as they know most of it won't get read or even make sense.

    Roy Lilley wrote that to compile national evidence for staffing levels over 6 million separate pieces of data would be required. How much does that all cost just to make those in their ivory towers feel better?

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  • Sorry the above link doesn't work.

    Try this. Roy Lilley is always a good read!

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  • shame it takes a "report" to motivate the organisation that represents nurses to fight for safe staffing levels ! Why were they not motivated to do anything before now .

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  • Remember that A CNO is a government appointment- a nurse appointed by politicians to whom they will always be beholden (not to mention politically allied). I'm not sure CNOs should ever be trusted stewards of the nursing profession. At least you see your CNO, the CNO for Victoria (Australia) is as invisible as the (conservative) government minister at a time when funds to staff run hospital are being seriously stretched.

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  • “We’ve never had enough nurses and we’ve always wanted more. But we are much further than we were, and for the first time we have this real attention to detail,” she told the conference... Oh dear the RCN is toothless and the CNO has no balls, come on Jane grow a pair!

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  • Please, we are not American! It's spelt sceptical!!

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  • well it all depends on how accurate this staffing number is going to be!!!! will it put our patient at more risk!!! it could come out very much biased!!!

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  • It is not staffing numbers being published, rather staffing hours which will show swings in availability when compared to an agreed staffing template. And that is the most important thing, if the template has not under gone an acuity review for assurance that it is fit for purpose then the published figures might look great, but in actuality the tempate is under resourced for the safe provision of patient focused care.

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  • She said staffing levels was now linked to outputs, such as the culture of an organisation, how safe it was to speak up & how staff were supported when they did.

    I don't understand why staffing levels should be linked to such outputs as above.
    I do understand however that output such as amount of falls, patients' hospital experience, medication administered on time, wound and sores healing time and prevention, smooth discharges, staff stress levels etc.

    Staff speaking up or being supported when they do, do not have a strong link to staff numbers.
    This all seem a bit of a mumble jumble to me.

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