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Your 5 minute weekly new summary: 17 December 2016

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A “calculable” link between nurse numbers and patient outcomes has been identified in an innovative new study into nurse staffing levels at an NHS trust. 

Previous research has shown an association between nurse numbers and patient care, but this study led by Professor Alison Leary from London South Bank University shows the link can be calculated by using high quality patient data. The study, based on 120 million patient data records at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, showed wards with a higher ratio of registered nurses to healthcare assistants had fewer slips, trips and falls.

Nurse staffing calculations must factor in the supervision of healthcare assistants, draft guidance under new laws in Wales have suggested. Proposed statutory guidance for implementing the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016 states that a designated senior nurse must include “the number of registered nurses and the number of persons providing care under the supervision of a registered nurse” when assessing staffing for wards. However, those involved in drawing up the document admit it must be made clear this must not be interpreted that HCAs should be counted as nurses.

Also in Wales, ministers have repeated a commitment to continue giving student nurses in Wales a bursary next year, but with the condition that they work for at least two years in the county after qualifying. However the government said long-term arrangements would be influenced by findings from a review by Sir Ian Diamond published last month. The review recommended government finances be targeted at student maintenance grants, at the expense of tuition fees.

Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust has defended its decision to sack a nurse who discussed her Christian beliefs and offered to pray with patients before surgery. Sarah Kuteh was employed in the surgical pre-assessment unit at the trust’s Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, where she was responsible for running through a pre-operative questionnaire that includes a question about religion, which she claims sparked natural discussion about faith. However, after being warned to stop “preaching” following complaints, the trust claimed her behaviour did not change and it “had no option” but to embark on a disciplinary process, which ultimately resulted in her being dismissed.

The number of nurses contacting the Cavell Nurses’ Trust asking for financial help has risen by 60% since the summer. The charity, which gives money and support to nursing professionals when they are experiencing financial hardship, said it had received 231 enquiries in November, compared to 143 in August.

Finally, hospitals in England have been told to “cease most inpatient elective activity” over Christmas and significantly reduce bed occupancy, to free up capacity and try to avoid further deterioration in emergency care. In a letter sent by regulator NHS Improvement, acute providers were asked to aim to cut their general and acute bed occupancy to 85% from 19 December to 16 January. Recent NHS England data shows bed occupancy is around 95%, similar to last year.

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