Patient perceptions of nurse staffing levels in hospitals have changed very little, despite a much-hyped increase in the overall size of the acute sector workforce, suggest national survey results.
Around one in 10 people who completed the 2014 inpatient survey thought there were “rarely or never” enough nurses on duty to care for them, the same as in 2013.
About 60% thought there were “always or nearly always” enough nurses on duty and 30% that there were “sometimes” enough nurses – with virtually no change between 2014 and 2013.
“The survey demonstrates the significant variation between the best and worst performing trusts”
Official figures have demonstrated a fairly consistent rise in the number of whole-time equivalent nurses over the last few years, with the government claiming 6,900 more since 2010.
But both nursing leaders and NHS managers have warned that the increase – driven by the Francis report and a series of new rules on staffing – has so far been outstripped by spiralling demand for services.
The information on patient views on staffing levels comes from the 2014 national inpatient survey, the results of which are published today by the Care Quality Commission.
The results are based on replies from more than 59,000 patients who stayed in one of 154 acute and specialist trusts in England for at least one night during June, July or August 2014.
As in previous years, patients were asked four questions specifically on nursing, including the one on perceptions of staffing levels. The results were largely positive, though suggesting room for improvement.
When asked if they had confidence and trust in the nurses treating them, 78% said “always”, representing a slight increase from the year before. Meanwhile, 19% said they “sometimes” did and just 3% answered “no”.
When asked whether nurses talked in front of them “as if you weren’t there”, 81% said this did not happen, though 15% said it did “sometimes” and 4% that it happened “often”.
A small percentage, 4%, said they did not receive an answers they could understand when they asked a nurse “important questions”. In comparison, 69% said they “always” received answers they could understand and 27% said they “sometimes” did.
The regulator said that, overall, the survey results from last year had not changed significantly since the 2013 version of the survey.
In general, the regulator said they showed that most inpatients were positive about their care, though many still experienced delays when they left hospital.
Over three quarters (77%) said they were “always” well looked after during their hospital stay. But 42% said there were delays with being discharged from hospital with most citing the main reason for the delay as waiting for medicines.
In addition, 97% of people said the room or ward they were in was either “very” or “fairly” clean.
Of those who used the call bell, 18% said that they experienced waits of over five minutes before they got help and 1% never got the help requested.
Overall, the CQC’s hospital inpatients survey found that 84% of respondents rated their overall experience as seven or higher out of 10, with about one in four people rating it 10 out of 10.
Professor Edward Baker, deputy chief inspector of hospitals at the CQC, said: “Despite the pressures facing the NHS, many patients are reporting positive experiences about their care.
“This is not the case in every hospital,” he said. “The survey demonstrates the significant variation between the best and worst performing trusts.”
Professor Baker “strongly urged” senior staff to review their results to see where improvements could be made.
The CQC has published the individual results for each of the 154 acute and specialist NHS trusts that took part.
Results for nursing questions in the national inpatient survey (source CQC):
|When you had important questions to ask a nurse, did you get answers that you|
could understand? (source: CQC)
|Did you have confidence and trust in the nurses treating you?||2014||2013|
|Did nurses talk in front of you as if you weren’t there?||2014||2013|
|In your opinion, were there enough nurses on duty to care for you in hospital?||2014||2013|
|There were always or nearly always enough|
|There were sometimes enough nurses||30%||30%|
|There were rarely or never enough nurses||11%||11%|