A group of senior nurses are calling on the Care Quality Commission to monitor nurse staffing levels as an “early warning” of where poor care is likely to happen, Nursing Times has been told.
The call comes in response to comments by the CQC’s new chief inspector of hospitals Professor Sir Mike Richards, following a high profile review of the 14 acute trusts with highest mortality rates in England.
The review, published earlier this month by NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh, revealed all 14 trusts were understaffed.
Despite this Sir Mike told Nursing Times the regulator would not be monitoring staffing levels as part of its new hospital surveillance regime. Instead, the CQC would look at staffing levels as an “explanatory” factor if there was other evidence of poor care.
But Sally Brearley, chair of the Prime Minister’s Forum on Nursing and Care Quality, said there was concern about this stance among her group’s members.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has asked the forum to work with the regulator on the development of its new inspection regime.
The forum, which includes Midlands and East director of nursing Ruth May who led some of the Keogh review teams, plan to raise its concerns with the CQC.
“We feel that things like nurse staffing would be much more helpful as an early warning rather than waiting until you have got problems like buzzers not being answered,” she told Nursing Times.
“We’d like the CQC to look more upstream, particularly in the wake of the Keogh review,” she said.
The government’s initial response to the Francis report into care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust said the CQC would in future be tasked with looking at whether trusts were doing intentional rounding and whether ward sisters had supervisory status.
Ms Brearley said: “We will want to work with the CQC to make sure they’re asking the right questions and know what good intentional rounding looks like.”
The forum was set up by David Cameron in 2012 to address concerns about the quality of nursing care.
Nursing Times understands the group considered disbanding earlier this year, partly in response to concerns about plans to make aspiring nurses work as healthcare assistants for up to a year before starting their formal training.
However, members have decided to continue and will be advising the government on its full response to the Francis report, due in late October or early November.
Members will also be supporting the roll out of the national nursing strategy, Compassion in Practice.
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