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Hunt quizzed on NHS staffing numbers

It is “totally unacceptable” for hospitals to have unsafe staffing levels, health secretary Jeremy Hunt insisted today as Labour declared it was the secretary of state’s job to ensure that every NHS hospital operates with safe staffing numbers.

Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne said the Care Quality Commission (CQC) had identified 17 NHS hospitals that were operating with unsafe levels of staffing “putting vulnerable patients and especially older people at risk”.

The CQC issued the hospitals with warnings in November after carrying out inspections.

Speaking during Commons health questions, Mr Gwynne said: “Frankly it’s the secretary of state’s job to ensure that every NHS hospital operates with safe staffing levels.

“So does he now think it was a mistake to strip out almost 7,000 nursing posts from our NHS?”

Mr Hunt replied the government had protected the NHS budget, while “his front bench wants to cut the NHS budget in real terms”.

Mr Hunt added: “I think he’s got to think very carefully before he starts talking about all these so-called cuts, when his own shadow health spokesman wants to cut the NHS budget in real terms. That’s what he said last December.

“With respect to what the Care Quality Commission said, I agree with them. It is totally unacceptable for hospitals to have unsafe staffing levels.

“But if you also listen to what he said, he said that budgets and financial issues are no excuse because those budget pressures exist throughout the NHS and many hospitals are able to deliver excellent care despite them.”

Readers' comments (27)

  • close hospital make nurse redundent that why staff are offer strechted.

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  • michael stone

    'budgets and financial issues are no excuse'

    That is what Hunt wants to 'push' - he wants to claim that low staff numbers can ALWAYS be overcome by 'training, attitude and organisation': as I've said elsewhere, that is an assertion which needs to be tested.

    The NHS is large, complex and very varied - it is very easy to find an orange somewhere, to compare with an apple - it is crucial in that type of argument, to compare true 'like with like': goverments are not known for being very strict in their comparisons !

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  • "Mr Hunt replied the government had protected the NHS budget"

    Excuse me ???????????

    How can he talk such rubbish when the NHS is being forced to make billions of pounds worth of savings.

    Where does he think the money is coming from, if not from the NHS budget.


    Am I missing something, OR is this just political clap-trap as usual ?????

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  • tinkerbell

    and the punch and judy show continues with nothing being done about the problem.

    Yada, yada, yada. So called adults.

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  • the tory party want the nhs privatised...simple fact

    can mr hunt tell me and my fellow workers here in rotherham how we are going to provide an adquate service for our patients when 750 of us are about to lose our jobs

    will he step in and stop this...well what do you think!!

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 16-Jan-2013 12:35 pm

    not unless you see some pigs flying. The cull will continue.

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  • seems that many have the completely the wrong end of the stick about the NHS reforms, privatisation and its implications for patients.

    The comments about it sound more like those circulating on bush telegraph from one mouth or computer to another than from those who have actually read the reforms documentation and have a clear understanding of it and its aims.

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  • George Barnes

    Sorry to be the one who points out the bleeding obvious elephant in the room but is no one else prepared to bring this up to the Nursing Times editorial staff?

    “17 NHS hospitals are among 26 healthcare providers in England failing to operate with safe staffing levels, the Care Quality Commission has said.”

    Hmmm.... why has the NT done a news item about this yet?

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  • Staffing levels in the community do not compare favourably with the amount of complex patients we are seeing. Dont forget the emphasis is to keep patients out of hospital.(quite rightly) Diabetic nurses have faded away, Copd nurses are almost non existant in my area. Matrons continue to require our imput, but we are not even replacing the staff who are leaving let alone employing more to cover the extra work. We are becoming more stressed and there is more sickness inevitably but do they listen.? They listen when a mistake is made only to blame the nurse. Enough said.

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  • Anonymous | 16-Jan-2013 1:09 pm

    I think we understand it, but in case not, can you please explain it, and let us know how you are involved.

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  • Anonymous | 16-Jan-2013 2:11 pm

    "Copd nurses are almost non existant in my area."

    Are the all sat at home on CPAP? or is there some other reason for these nurses disappearence ?

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  • The NHS is being stretched like an elastic band... or is it skin - either case, stretched too much or too long, things won't be good.
    Might the cuts in nursing posts be to fill HV + midwifery posts, still no new nurses which is what's required for ongoing safe care + comfort as far as patients are concerned.
    'More clinicians recruited', prob to fill gaps in the first place; but who + where are they? not around to help me mop up cr*p, feed, wash, dress, give meds, keep someone alive / reduce deterioration till assistance arrives...
    Getting rid of a thousand nurses could save £30-40 million, not enough to meet government's deficits. But less nurses = more risks + deaths, especially if vulnerable and that will cost everyone much more.
    How much could be saved if the top 2 levels of every NHS trust/organization in the country was removed to be centrally managed, after-all isn't the Health Secretary responsibility, then ultimately the PM accountable to the electorate? Some politicians are the biggest parasites out there.

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  • Frontline clinicians are always the ones to get penalised, as easy targets. The idea is that you should work harder, faster and smile more.
    He was on TV this morning, saying the IT systems would help ease everyone's problems, but this was disputed.

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  • carrie-ann | 16-Jan-2013 4:54 pm

    IT systems in general seem to have made many aspects of life far more complex and less efficient. there is also the very serious issue of safeguarding the data of patients. Will IT in the NHS be any better than elsewhere?

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  • Are there really only 17 trusts that are short-staffed, I doubt it. It's not just about having the right amount of staff, it's also about skill mix and skills.

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  • The NHS once the gold standard of health care has been short staffed, its budgets misdirected and asset stripped by various ministers of various political parties for so long, that it is now virtually beyond saving.

    No other organisation in this country has so many highly paid under qualified managers with so little knowledge of the tasks, skills, capabilities and dedication of the workforce they are responsible for.

    Hunt can strut and pontificate all he likes we all know his words are disingenuous smoke and mirrors. It was after all the Tories under Thatcher who set in motion the death of the NHS, but Andrew Gwynne's New Labour Party under the leadership of Blair and Brown had a 13 year window of opportunity to reverse Thatcher's illegal sell off of public utillities such as the NHS... But preffered instead to spend the funds available on fighting their illegal wars.

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  • There's none so deaf, dumb, blind and plain daft as those who work in the national Health Service, today's government, and in the opposition parties too.
    For decades we (Nurses) have seen the government parties, insiduously, reducing the financial blood supply to the NHS by strangulating it at both juggulars, yet, nurses religeously, go on, blindly,willingly allowing them (the goverment) to sabotage their nursing expertise by directly, causing chaos in the NHS, , in turn, creating the current staffing shortages, described above, and then they, the goverment, have the audacity to, blatantly, deny accountability for this abysmal predicament in which the NHS finds itself in.

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  • Mmmm just where is the money coming from? And where are the nursing staff coming from? Due to long winded HR procedures it takes up to 4 months to get staff in post, then when we do its another x nos of months away doing induction, training to train sake & then we half kill them with the workload in our wards, ESP if your matrons don't have the nonce to stand up for the teams under pressure. There is no quick wins here! What matters is patients. I am lucky I do have a director of nursing who acts on what she sees & knows & will not compromise pt safety but she has to fight for & she needs her eyes on the ground matrons & nurses to help her with solutions. Yes we are knackered & our pts are sicker/ frailer than years ago don't moan fight! Understaffing is not just about nos of nurses it is about getting the basics right with rota etc. those who are about to lose your jobs in Rotherham head down the M1 to NG7 2UH we are recruiting & we do use local intelligence to make a difference, we don't always get it right but we are making a difference.

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  • 16/1/13 7:35pm, you're so right in saying no other organisation in the country has so many under qualified managers.

    It is not only vital for good care, to get more staff it is equally vital to get good managers.
    If we get an influx of more staff and then they are under managers who don't know how to manage, there will still be poor care and other staffing problems.
    I have worked on wards where there are sufficient staff, but the management could not sort problems such as bullying, allocation of work, skill mix, shift patterns,their own time management, equality, the day to day running of the ward and A/leave they and thier selected few always get every Christmas, New Year and Easter off causing staff to have a lot of resentment.

    The problem of poor care lies with : not enought staff and the fact we have too many under qualified managers, who are also not active enough to ensure their staff working environment is happy, and staff have a good work life balance.

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  • Anonymous | 17-Jan-2013 8:22 am

    sadly the NHS are not interested in recruiting highly trained and enthusiastic and highly motivated clinical managers from outside the organisation or nurses to senior positions as they do not favour independent thinkers!!!!!!!!!! Even if one does get a foot through the door I imagine the enthusiasm and motivation would be quickly lost as it looks as though there is are very dense barriers which act as dampers to innovative ideas, dynamising staff and excellence in care, etc.

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