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Weekly news summary: 21 January 2017

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Analysis has revealed almost every NHS acute hospital in England is failing to meet its own nurse staffing targets, with 96% not having enough nurses in the day and 85% missing their target at night.

The investigation, by Nursing Times’ sister title Health Service Journal, was based on NHS data from 214 (92%) of trusts in October 2016. It revealed the worst results since January 2015. Workforce experts suggested healthcare assistants may be being used to fill the gaps, but warned this could create a risk for patient safety in the long-term.

As part of the investigation, frontline nurses spoke of the impact of understaffing. They said patients had been left waiting for medications, unwashed or had vital observations delayed because hospitals wards do not have enough nurses.

Meanwhile, the most senior nurse at regulator NHS Improvement, acknowledged current pressures on the NHS were the worst she had seen. Dr Ruth May said “there is more we can and should do to help” NHS employees and she emphasised the need for trusts to recruit and retain more staff.

A petition calling for an end to pay restraint for nurses and support staff in England has passed the target number of signatures required to force MPs to consider it for debate in parliament. It has been signed by more than 102,000 people and the issue will be discussed by MPs on January 30.

In the same week, analysis by unions has revealed NHS nurses and midwives in England will have seen a real-terms cut to their wages of at least £3,000 during the 10 year period to 2020, under the government’s policy of pay restraint. Public sector workers are currently subject to an average 1% annual pay rise. The Trades Union Congress, which carried out the analysis, called for the government to allow each part of the public sector to negotiate its own appropriate pay, rather than a blanket national limit being imposed.

The Nursing and Midwifery has said the government must pay £4m in set up costs to introduce regulation of nursing associates, as it laid out a number of conditions that would have to be met if the body were to agree to regulate the new role. Ahead of its decision at a council meeting next week, the NMC has published papers noting that unless “full funding” was provided to introduce nursing associate regulation, this would pose a threat to its other work, including its revision of nurse education standards.

Lastly, a trust in east London is to cut a fifth of its community nursing staff from April after local commissioners decided to stop funding an initiative designed to reduce inappropriate hospital admissions. Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust will lose 14 district nurse posts from a total of 63 as a result of the decision by City and Hackney Clinical Commissioning Group. The trust estimated that an extra two patients would need to be added to each remaining nurse’s daily caseload.

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