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NICE's work on safe staffing guidance cost £1m

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The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence spent nearly £1m on its work to develop nurse safe staffing guidelines for the NHS.

NICE was controversially told to suspend its programme by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens two weeks ago.

Work on safe staffing would in future be led by chief nursing officer for England Jane Cummings, who is based at NHS England, he said.

A spokesman for NICE said on Friday that it had carried out the work on safe staffing under a contract with NHS England and the Department of Health funded through its “grant aid” from the government.

The work’s costs included salaries and costs of committees and other overheads, he told Nursing Times’ sister title Health Service Journal.

“We’ve spent approximately £1m since autumn 2013,” he added. This included £130,000 in 2013-14, £743,000 in 2014-15 and £123,000 in 2015-16 through to May.

A spokeswoman for NHS England said it was “too soon” to say what resources it would have in place to take the programme forward, reiterating comments made to Nursing Times by Ms Cummings.

She said that a timetable setting out the work programme NHS England would undertake on safe staffing would be outlined in “the next few weeks”.

There has been widespread concern over the decision to suspend work by NICE, which was a key recommendation of Sir Robert Francis following his public inquiry into poor care at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.

An interim report on NHS efficiency by Lord Carter, published at the end of last week, also said NICE should be used to improve guidance on appropriate staffing levels and skill mix.

In a letter to nursing directors on Friday, Ms Cummings said NHS England would continue to use NICE “where appropriate”.

Asked what that meant in practice, an NHS England spokeswoman said there was a lack of evidence for non-acute healthcare settings.

This meant there was a “need to find a new approach to testing what is right, which includes looking at what evidence exists, commissioning new research and national and international best practice”.

She added: “We will continue to use NICE for commissioning evidence reviews in discussion with them and other advisers. We’ll give more information on this when it is available.”

Asked about how much investment NHS England would make in the safe staffing work, she said: “It is too soon to say, but some of the work will be incorporated into programmes of work already being undertaken by the mental health taskforce, the urgent and emergency care vanguards and national quality board.”

A source close to the NICE safe staffing programme said there was a lack of evidence in some areas but thatNICE’s “job and commission was to base guidance on best available evidence and, where it is lacking, to use expert judgement”.

They said: “I am far from convinced NHS England has real capability to find and properly assess evidence, especially given that it is limited.”

In relation to the focus on other staff roles alongside nurses, the source added: “They could certainly have given a brief to look at safe staffing including not just nursing.

“Even in a multi-disciplinary world the question of safe nurse staffing remains and the NICE guidance and brief did consider inputs from other staff groups as a factor.”

  • 3 Comments

Readers' comments (3)

  • HCSW

    £1m here, £1m there. WHO CARES?

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  • probably the patients who are paying for the NHS with their taxes, and the frontline staff who have been downbanded and worked like dogs while the executives pocket huge salarys for doing bugger all!!!!! The only thing wrong with the NHS is chronic mismanagement!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • HCSW

    I cant see any signs of the public anger. Please, feel free to come with the solution how to cure the NHS and I will vote for you.

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