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Nurses asked for evidence in safe staffing investigation

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An investigation has been launched into safe staffing levels for older people’s wards in the wake of continuing concern about how older people are treated in UK hospitals.

The Royal College of Nursing study is asking nurses for evidence of staffing levels in their workplaces. The study follows on from research published last year which found such wards had a lower ration of registered nurses to healthcare assistants than other wards.

RCN older people’s adviser Nicky Hayes, who is leading the project, will visit acute and community hospitals across the UK examine staffing levels and speak to older people.

Ms Hayes, who also works as a consultant nurse for older people at King’s College Hospital Foundation Trust, told Nursing Times she hoped to produce “strong” and “definitive” guidance but could not at this stage say whether it would include a specific recommendation on minimum staffing levels.

She said: “I’m not convinced that older people can be confident that particular hospitals are specifically planning for their needs and ensuring they are staffed appropriately.

“Why should that be the case when we know that frail older people have complex needs including co-morbidities and possibly dementia?”

She said that although technical skills were present many hospitals often did not take account of patient experience and older patients’ need for caring, compassion and personal relationships with nursing staff.

“They need intensive nursing but what the evidence shows so far is that some areas aren’t allocating the same number of trained nurses [as to other wards].”

High profile reports from the Patients Association and the health ombudsman, as well as the Care Quality Commission’s dignity and nutrition spotchecks, have recently thrown the spotlight on the quality of care for older people.

The RCN Safer Staffing project has the support of organisations including the Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK and the Patients Association. They plan to together lobby government over safer staffing levels once conclusions have been reached.

It is also backed by the Department of Health and the CQC.

Nurses are being asked to fill out a survey at http://tinyurl.com/3zvmpze.

  • 10 Comments

Readers' comments (10)

  • i pasted the above link and it took me to The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals international.

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  • Above. your not kidding. I got the SPCA and a page on pet medications. I thought there might be useful info. there for the tabard debate! but no such luck. I'm fed up with this sloppy work of the NT and not wasting anymore time on it!

    However, re the article. seems a good initiative but

    "Ms Hayes, who also works as a consultant nurse for older people at King’s College Hospital Foundation Trust, told Nursing Times she hoped to produce “strong” and “definitive” guidance but could not at this stage say whether it would include a specific recommendation on minimum staffing levels."

    specific recommendations to become law nationwide.

    "She said that although technical skills were present many hospitals often did not take account of patient experience and older patients’ need for caring, compassion and personal relationships with nursing staff."

    It is only nurses who have the skills to evaluate patients needs and determine the staffing levels required.

    "High profile reports from the Patients Association and the health ombudsman, as well as the Care Quality Commission’s dignity and nutrition spotchecks, have recently thrown the spotlight on the quality of care for older people."

    This care should be provided as a given and taken totally for granted. It is absolutely impermissible that there should be a need for all these organisations to throw spotlights on anything. There energies could all be focused on care instead of so many do-gooding splinter groups going round spotlighting wasting even more money and resources which could be invested in direct care! What a nonsense and total disgrace services in Britain are and nobody with enough good sense and rationality to sort them out.

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  • Apologies, the link was slightly wrong. It has been corrected and should now work.

    Sarah

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  • thanks Sarah it now works. Unfortunately I can't help though as despite my long and wide experience in this area you have to be currently working.

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  • What evidence do they need exactly? There is a long, long list of academic studies and journals already written on this topic, all stating the need for safe staffing levels and a nurse patient ratio, the evidence is ALREADY THERE!! It is what Australia has based its legalised Nurse/patient ratios on, they are what Canada, NZ, etc etc etc have all used.

    Whilst this is welcome, it had better include a recommendation for a LEGALISED nurse/patient ratio that the RCN then pushes through to parliament otherwise it will just be added to the very long list of evidence that is already out there!!!

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  • I am fed up of hearing about adequate staffing levels, because it will be down to the matron or bleep holder for the shift that will decide where staff work. Everytime an elderly ward is adequately staffed, someone is taken off to work elsewhere, in an area deemed to be of a higher priority. We don't just need recommendations or it legalising, as I guess it still won't work until nursing staff and managers have a change in attitude towards elderly care. With cuts in the NHS to keep within budgets, or worse still recoup overspending, nursing staff are the soft target with posts not being re-filled, wards closing, a ban on bank and agency staff (I remember when we never had to resort to employing the latter expensive resourse), etc. I am sure I needn't go on, we all know where today's NHS is going.

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  • Anonymous | 5-Sep-2011 11:20 pm you are not wrong, and I see your points, but I'm sorry, a legalised Nurse/patient ratio for ALL wards IS the answer, then EVERY ward would be safely and adequately staffed and there would be no call, or indeed no ability for anyone to move staff elsewhere.

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  • "...nursing staff and managers have a change in attitude towards elderly care."

    they should be sleeves rolled up workers on the ward like everybody else until they are made to change their attitudes to the needs of the elderly and their care!

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  • mike | 6-Sep-2011 10:53 am

    Mike if you re-read, my comment I said, We don't just need recommendations or it legalising, as I guess it still won't work until nursing staff and managers have a change in attitude towards elderly care.' I was saying we need a change in attitude too.

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  • I agree with Mike's comment on 5 Sept - what exactly is the RCN looking for? We already have evidence that higher nurse/patient ratios result in better patient recovery and outcomes. What we don't have is a strong nursing voice at high levels which can ensure safe patient care for all. The nursing profession should be utilising the evidence in the Prime Minister's Commission 'Frontline Care', 2010, to improve nursing leadership at all levels with the aim of improving the quality of patient care for all.

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