A member of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s staffing advisory committee has urged nurses to start publishing their own evidence, after questioning whether future guidelines on accident and emergency nurse staffing will be as robust as NICE’s draft version.
Following the announcement that NHS England will take over safe staffing guidance from NICE, the committee member – who is an emergency department matron – said he would be “surprised” if NHS England “re-branded” the draft NICE had drawn up, and suggested a “looser” version may be produced instead.
He highlighted the current lack of evidence on A&E safe staffing in the UK and called on nurses and trusts to begin publishing data on safe nursing indicators to create the evidence base for any future guidance.
“Something will have to come out but whether it will…contain the same bits [as the draft NICE guideline] remains to be seen”
Speaking at a HealthCare Conferences UK event on Monday, James Bird said he found out via the social media website Twitter that NICE would be suspending its work on safe staffing guidance.
He said: “Something will have to come out [from NHS England on A&E staffing] but whether it will be as robust and will contain the same bits [as the draft NICE guideline] remains to be seen.”
He noted that the NICE A&E guideline – the final version of which had been completed and was ready to be published – contained recommended ratios similar to the draft version released in January.
This would have meant “a number of trusts” realising they are inadequately staffed, he said.
“Not having the guidelines hasn’t changed that they are inadequately staffed. What we have now is that there is no guideline for them to go against, so something slightly looser might come out,” he said.
The chief nursing officer for England Jane Cummings said her office will be taking over the safe staffing work at NHS England.
“You all look at breaches, you all look at attendances, but no one publishes it. Because no one publishes it, it doesn’t sit out there to inform staffing”
In an interview with Nursing Times last week, Ms Cummings said her office was yet to determine the details of how to implement the plans.
Mr Bird told Nursing Times that NICE had spent a year developing its A&E guidelines.
“So the guideline as it was written will not be the same as the guideline that comes out next, because if you haven’t got the resources – and you’re going to have to do something reasonably soon – then I suspect it won’t be the same thing coming out,” he said.
“I’d be surprised if they [NHS England] simply re-branded it,” he added.
He urged nurses carrying out research and trusts with existing data to start publishing safe nursing indicators to ensure there is UK-wide evidence for future guidance.
He told the conference: “I guarantee all your trusts have this data because you all look at breaches, you all look at attendances, but no one publishes it. Because no one publishes it, it doesn’t sit out there to inform staffing.
“Until we all say ‘Let’s put that up against number of nurses and put that data out there’ nothing is going to change.”