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Lack of mandatory staffing levels 'missed opportunity', says Unison

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The government’s failure to recommend minimum nursing staffing levels in its initial response to the Francis report is a “missed opportunity to boost patient care”, Unison has warned.

The government today published its initial response to the seminal Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust Public Inquiry report.

Ministers rejected mandatory minimum staffing levels in favour of guidelines for local implementation. They also rejected HCA regulation in favour of minimum training standards and a code of conduct.

Unison has been campaigning for many years in favour of introducing mandatory ratios to ensure the right number of staff with the right mix of skills on hospital wards.

It also reiterated its call for full registration of healthcare assistants, rather than just minimum standards of training.

In addition, the union warned there was no evidence that making student nurses work as healthcare assistants will boost standards. Such a move is one of the key nursing measures outlined by health secretary Jeremy Hunt today.

Unison highlighted that student nurses already spend 50% of their training working on wards and in clinical settings. It believes that this should be in longer, but fewer placements to give a “broader picture of what life is really like on the wards”.

Christina McAnea, the union’s head of health, said: “Nurses and other healthcare staff are crying out for safe staffing levels and for wards to have the right skills mix.

“Patients are suffering because this is not happening – the government has to start listening to health workers who have repeatedly raised these concerns.

“Instead of giving nurses their backing, the government is constantly running them down,” she added.


Sign our Speak Out Safely petition to support a transparent and open NHS. We are calling on the government to implement recommendations from the Francis report that will increase protection for staff who raise concerns about patient care.


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