By continuing to use the site you agree to our Privacy & Cookies policy

NHS prepares to publish first set of new nurse staffing data

Nurse staffing levels at trusts across England are due to be published for the first time this afternoon, under new rules on transparency introduced in response to the Francis report.

The data on actual versus planned staffing levels will be published on part of the NHS Choices website, along with other information on the number of safety incidents reported by trusts.

“Getting staffing levels right is crucial and failure to do so can have serious ramifications for patients”

Peter Carter

The data on actual versus planned staffing levels will be published on part of the NHS Choices website, along with other information on the number of safety incidents reported by trusts.

Meanwhile, from the end of the month, trusts must also begin displaying individual ward staffing levels on boards outside all adult inpatient wards.

Work on these initiatives has been led by the chief nursing officer for England, Jane Cummings, and her team at NHS England.

Trusts were given until 10 June to submit information on ward nurse staffing levels during May. This is the data that will be published today for the first time on the NHS Choices website.

However, while largely welcomed as a step in the right direction, there has been some criticism of how useful the data will be in its present form.

For example, claims have been made that it will be “meaningless” without also including patient numbers for comparison and questions raised about how easy it will be to compare staffing levels between different trusts and whether it will take into account skill mix.

Potentially of more concern, there are suggestions that some trusts have already begun “gaming” the system to try and meet this month’s deadlines.

As revealed earlier this month, Nursing Times has been told specialist nurses are being made to abandon their caseloads to work on wards to bulk up staffing numbers amid the intense pressure on trusts to publish “safe staffing” data to the public.

Speaking at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual conference last week, Ms Cummings told delegates that staffing numbers had 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” between trusts, 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. A draft version of the guidance, published in May, suggested more than eight patients per nurse on a “regular basis” can increase the risk of harm in adult hospital wards.

The measures were announced by the government last year, following recommendations made by the Francis report into care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.

As well as the NICE guidelines and trusts submitting data to NHS Choices, hospitals are also required to show individual ward staffing levels on boards outside all adult inpatient wards. This was inspired by work at Salford Royal Foundation Trust.

However, like the national level data, the ward-level information does not currently have to include the number of patients – leading some high profile nurses to repeat calls for the introduction of mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios.

In addition to these measures, the new rules also mean trusts must put together a six-monthly report on staffing capacity and capability following an establishment review, and compile a monthly report on staffing to be presented to the trust board each month.

Speaking ahead of the publication of the staffing data by NHS Choices, Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “This is a very positive step towards greater transparency which is to be welcomed.

Peter Carter

“Getting staffing levels right is crucial and failure to do so can have serious ramifications for patients,” he said. “Allowing people to easily compare how well hospitals are doing to provide safe staffing levels is a step in the right direction.

“These staffing levels should be set using the NICE guidelines, and senior nurses have a vital role to play in their implementation,” he added.

Readers' comments (2)

  • As it was decided to publish the information in hours, how is this exactly going to inform the public or hospitals? It is not, using the required shifts to be filled (following an acuity review and re-alignment of template) and the actuals worked would be informative. This whole exercise feels like a government 'tick box' and it is dishartening to see NICE supporting hours and not shifts. How many Trusts have utilised an acuity scoring tool (AUKUH for example), completed reviews and actioned the results to either decrease, or much more likely, increase staffing levels to meet the acuity, skill mix ratio's of a minimum of 65:35 and ensured that their Registered Nurse to Patient Ratios are no higher than 1:8? It will be interesting, on the back of a 0-1% pay rise to reduce staffing costs, how our current government and leaders will support and fund required staffing increases.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • It is all well and good reporting staffing levels as the numbers may be right but the skill mix is wrong, if, out of 5 RN on shift, 2 are senior and 3 are junior the problems are still there, strain, burnout patient safety, and staff leaving ???????

    Unsuitable or offensive?

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment.

Related Jobs

Sign in to see the latest jobs relevant to you!

newsletterpromo