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Former CQC investigator calls for safe staffing standards


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.


Readers' comments (6)

  • No s*** sherlock!!!

    Pity she wasn't so vocal while she was PART of the CQC. What is the point in even having the CQC when they have no teeth to actually do anything? I have raised a few concerns with them in the past about a particular institution, one of which was about staffing levels, only to be told there was nothing they could do. Don't get me wrong they tried to be as helpful as possible and were very open with advice, but it was plain that their hands were tied. Like I said, what is the point?

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  • I'm in agreement with Mike. I was recently told by a CQC inspector that 'we are a toothless tiger' ..'I want to to do something,my boss wants to do something but we are not authorised'. So indeed, what is the point?

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  • mike | 18-May-2011 9:23 am
    Anonymous | 18-May-2011 2:04 pm

    As I was saying on another forum, nurses in New South Wales went on strike on 24 November 2010 over staff/patient ratios and skill mix. Although, these were the specific reasons for taking industrial action, the strike was seen as a measure of the anger felt by nurses towards the increasingly dysfunctional nature of their health care system. They were successful, and nursing hours/ratios and skill mix are now embedded and enforceable by law.

    The difference between the Australian Nurses and us? Their unions are focused , organised and effective, and their membership is united.

    The likes of the CQC are just outright barriers to health, well being and decent care standards. Nurses are the backbone of the NHS. Nothing happens, good or ill, without our agreement. We should by-pass these pointless organisations and quangos, and take action ourselves to effect the change necessary to safeguard the NHS.

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  • Anonymous | 18-May-2011 3:58 pm I absolutely and utterly agree with you. There needs to be a call for a full out strike, right now.

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  • Shame the unions are also 'toothless tigers'.

    And as always - takes a disaster for anyone to listen to us about numbers and skill mix!!

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  • michael stone

    I have just asked 'mike' a question on another blog - I raised something with the CQC as an annoyed ex-family carer, and also got the 'we can't deal with that one' answer.

    It is pretty well established, that criticisms of NHS 'procedues and behaviour' are almost certain to not lead to improvement !

    I'n not impressed by the NMC, either.

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