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New workforce planning tools 'failing to ensure safe staffing'

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Nurse staffing numbers are at dangerously low levels in places and tools to help calculate safe ratios are failing to work, claimed union members at Unison’s annual healthcare conference this week.

Members from Unison’s Lanarkshire Health branch said in some places NHS trusts were operating at levels of one nurse-to-eight patients in the day, which then increased to 1:24 at night.

“Despite use of these tools staff are constantly having issues with staff shortages”

Unison members

They claimed private providers were also risking patient safety through low staffing levels, adding that one member from a private care home had recently reported just one registered nurse on shift for 85 patients.

“That is absolutely unacceptable,” said branch members. “Surely it would be safer to have mandatory minimum nurse to patient ratios?”

They added: “In Scotland we have workforce planning tools, but despite use of these tools staff are constantly having issues with staff shortages.”

“You are faced with having to choose what the immediate care priorities are”

Unison member

A nurse from Wales said she was often faced with having to provide care for 29 patients alongside just one other registered nurse while on 12-hour shifts.

“You are faced with having to choose what the immediate care priorities are….You feel disheartened you couldn’t provide 100% care,” she said.

Members from the Lankarshire Health branch called on the union to launch a high profile campaign to establish minimum staffing levels aligned to models used in California and New South Wales. The motion was carried.

Earlier this week, Unison published its annual safe staffing survey which found nurse staffing levels had not improved this year, despite the introduction of national guidelines for inpatient wards in England last summer.

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