There are limits to nurse staffing levels below which no trust or ward should go, the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry has been told.
Heather Wood led the Healthcare Commission investigation that uncovered the failings at the trust. Dr Wood said last week she had been concerned while working for the regulator that a trust could achieve a “good” rating in the commission’s quality monitoring system – the annual health check – despite having unsafe staffing levels.
She accepted it was a difficult issue but thought regulators “could have come up with some standard relating to staffing”. The Royal College of Nursing agreed a motion supporting legally enforceable staffing levels at its annual congress in Liverpool in April.
Dr Wood told the inquiry: “The profession of nursing have battled with this issue for some time because it’s likely that in any area the actual dependency of patients who are admitted will vary. Having said that there are limits below which trusts should not go.”
She transferred to the Care Quality Commission when it was set up in 2009 but was made the subject of a gagging order when she left in August 2010, following the abolition of its investigations team. The order made an exception for the public inquiry.
Dr Wood supported claims made at an earlier hearing by senior nurse Shelagh Hawkins – also a former employee of both organisations – that the CQC would not pick up another Mid Staffs type case due to the loss of its national investigations team.