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Exclusive: Government to order urgent action on staffing levels


Understaffed hospitals must take action to address workforce issues “as a matter of urgency”, the government will say today.

Nursing Times has obtained a “confidential draft” of a document on staffing levels, which is set to be a major part of the government’s full response to the Francis report.

As revealed by Nursing Times last week, the How To guide sets out a series of expectations that hospital boards must comply with, including ensuring effective escalation policies are in place so that vacancies on shifts are filled.

It also says boards should take into account the other responsibilities of nurses – such as mentoring and continuing professional development – when working out how many staff their organisation needs.

Most of the expectations are considered current best practice, but the document acknowledges that not all organisations will be meeting them.

It states: “Where this is the case, we expect boards to identify as a matter of urgency the actions that could be taken to meet these expectations.”

MPs on the Commons’ health select committee recently recommended that all trusts follow the example of Salford Royal Foundation Trust. It displays information about how many nursing staff should be on a shift alongside how many are actually present.

The How To guide says providers should clearly display information about “nurses, midwives and care staff” present on a shift. However, it makes no mention of displaying the numbers required.

Other expectations state that boards must “foster a culture of professionalism and responsiveness, where staff feel able to raise concerns”, and that directors of nursing must work on setting staffing levels with their fellow directors in medicine, finance, human resources and operations.

The document also says commissioners must play a role by assuring themselves that service providers have sufficient nursing capacity and says NHS England will incorporate “relevant elements” into next year’s NHS Standard Contract.


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Readers' comments (9)

  • michael stone

    Does 'the goverment' actually control any of this stuff ?

    Hasn't this goverment deliberately introduced a [rather complex and arguably fragmented] 'set up' within the NHS, precisely so it can lay problems at the door of somebody else, by saying 'they make those decisions - we don't directly control that, any longer ?'.

    So how would the goverment 'impose' staffing levels ?

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  • Private Care as well!
    Let's not forget Private Care Homes / Hospitals as well.
    They should be equally accountable.
    Elderly and Vulnerable people paying a fortune for poor care.

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  • No mention of commissioned services then, eg. GP run services, council run services.
    Hospital is a diminishing entity now, NHS has been "PR'd" a la cameron et al.
    Govt may be able to impost staffing as part of contracts however when any audit of said staffing is not also in the contract no-one is any wiser, management has successfully exacted blood, sweat and tears from what will have been a team of skilled, compassionate human beings at the start but ended up as an exhausted, demoralised and scared bunch of individuals protecting their registrations and mental health.

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  • tinkerbell

    is that just 'urgent' or 'really urgent' or 'seriously urgent'. Now that most of the original meaning has been sucked out of words by all the 'spin' and rhetoric 'urgent' no longer means 'urgent' but has degrees of urgency. Otherwise 'urgent' now means that this can wait until next year.

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  • Where there is "short staffing" in hospitals there are "Directors of Nursing " who have been complicit in agreeing that staffing is "adequate".

    These evil "professionals" who plan the reduction of RN's and the dilution of skill mix need rooting out and striking from the register.

    These same incompetents are also responsible
    for the reduction in nurse training places thus ensuring recruitment of RN's has to be undertaken outside the UK.

    We have a foolish national "leader" who believes the magic "C's" will compensate for a lack of staff !

    Time for the RCN and other Unions to demand urgent change.

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  • Jenny Jones | 17-Nov-2013 12:29 pm

    "Time for the RCN and other Unions to demand urgent change."

    Leading on from Tinkerbell's comment, would that be "just 'urgent' or 'really urgent' or 'seriously urgent'"? The unions do seem to operate on the same timescale as the government.

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  • "...must take action to address workforce issues “as a matter of urgency”, the government will say next week."

    No at all irony in the fact that if it is such a matter of urgency that the Government can't be bothered to make the announcement for another seven days or so.....

    Almost like cooking the books on appointment times. Or not at all like that - take your pick.

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  • 21 November 2013, Thursday

    In the real world, the current government is NOT serious about this minimum staffing levels in whatever healthcare settings be it in hospital, community and home care.

    They elected members of parliament are waiting for the next election year to play with government policies, wasting tax payers money, soliciting or seeking another term of office, claiming their expenses unreasonably, turning up shortly in parliament for attendance to claim their daily allowance and enjoy the rest of the day.

    Have I left out anything? Call me a pessimist. These are the things they do. Do you still believe them? Do not forget after electioneering or promising they will improve and take action on an urgent issue. Either or they will break their promise, pass the buck to someone else and deny accountability and responsibility because they are NOT registered practitioners. They are politicians. They do NOT know the meaning of the word, "Public Office is Public Trust.

    There will be another Mid Staff Crisis if they do not legislate urgently minimum staffing level which is six patient is to one registered nurse on an adult ward; skill mix that is health care assistants should be accountable to their practice. Please, anybody resolve this situation NOW before its too late. Call for help; sounds familiar.

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  • The government throw in the odd 'seeming to care' 'action' every now and again, to dupe us all away their real intentions!!

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