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Nurses to debate halting of NICE work on safe staffing

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An emergency motion has been added to the agenda at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual conference in light of the recent controversy over safe staffing guidance for the NHS.

The resolution will call on the RCN to lobby for a change of decision to halt the safe staffing guideline programme being carried out by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

The debate surrounding the resolution is likely to be one of the key points of the conference tomorrow.

The programme, which was a recommendation in the Francis report, was stopped at the request of NHS England and the work will now be incorporated into projects being led by the chief nursing officer’s department.  

The move was met with anger and shock by many in the profession, especially as the Francis report had stipulated that the work be done by the independent body NICE.

Concerns were also raised that the decision was linked to cost-cutting, given current political rhetoric on reducing spending on agency staff – something denied by the CNO.

Earlier in today, RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter highlighted the controversial takeover of the work by NHS England in his keynote speech.

“NICE has been told to stop its work on safe staffing guidelines. Stop delivering one of the key recommendations of the Francis report into Mid Staffs. After all the progress we’ve made. All the work we’ve done to highlight the importance of safe levels of staffing,” he said.

He told delegates at the conference in Bournemouth that the RCN was calling on the health secretary Jeremy Hunt and NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens to “revisit” the decision.

“NICE is an independent body with the right expertise to judge how many nursing staff we need to ensure safe patient care,” he said. “And I haven’t heard anyone make a good case for stopping its work.”

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