The impact of 12 hour shifts on patients and staff is to be reviewed by NHS England as part of its plan to implement the chief nursing officer for England’s national nursing strategy.
The review is one of a raft of initiatives planned over the next few years with the aim of making the Compassion in Practice strategy a reality.
Professor Juliet Beal, NHS England’s director of nursing for quality and improvement, told Nursing Times the review would focus on which shift patterns were most appropriate for different settings.
“There is a concern that for some nurses in some areas working 12 hour might be a very long shift to work – 12 hours is a very long time to do something that requires a lot of emotional labour.
“In some areas it might be perfectly acceptable, but we don’t have the evidence base. We need to look at it to make sure we are really giving patients the best care.”
She said although 12-hour shifts could provide continuity during the shift, it was not always the case for patients who had longer stays in hospitals.
12hr shifts can be convenient for staff & orgs. Not sure quality of performance can be sustained-particularly over several days #NTtwitchat
— Ann Abbassi (@annabb02) April 17, 2013
— Stu Young (@swayoung01) April 17, 2013
Compassion in Practice was published last December. But the senior nurses leading it waited for the publication in February of the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust Public Inquiry report before setting out detailed implementation plans for the strategy.
Due to be launched yesterday, they include initiatives at national, local and individual level and across areas including workforce planning, education, leadership and staff experience.
Alongside new staffing tools for community, mental health and learning disability nursing, it is hoped the shift pattern review will contribute to establishing “adequate, and appropriate, staffing levels for all care settings”.
Jill Maben, director of the National Nursing Research Unit in London, said a review of shift patterns was “long overdue”.
“Twelve hour shifts have crept into the NHS with very little evaluation of their impact on staff or quality and safety. It seems to be either down to staff preference or costs savings,” she told Nursing Times.
Last week cash-strapped Bolton Foundation Trust announced it was piloting a move to 13-hour shifts in a bid to save £1.5m.
Royal College of Nursing director of policy Howard Catton said it was important nursing took ownership of the issues around shift patterns. “There could be very significant temptations for others to look at shift systems to reduce head count,” he said.
The review is due to complete by September. However, whatever its conclusions Professor Beal said NHS England did not have the power to make certain shift patterns compulsory.
“It’s a new world. NHS England cannot mandate anything… What we want to do in the new world is do things because people think it’s the right thing to do and it will work locally,” she said.
Sally Brearley, chair of the Prime Minister’s Nursing and Care Quality Form, also welcomed the review but predicted more research would be needed as there was little existing evidence on staffing levels.
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