A hospital trust in the West Midlands is bucking the national trend by increasing its number of qualified nurses in a bid to improve care and save money.
George Eliot Hospital Trust in Nuneaton has detailed proposals introduce a 60:40 ratio of qualified nurses to unqualified nursing staff in all wards, in a project expected to cost £1m during 2011-12.
At present the trust’s ratio is 50:50, and it plans to hire more 26 whole time equivalent nurses while reducing the number of healthcare assistants by about the same number.
However, it is also planning to close one general ward next month, saving £650,000 during 2011-12. According to the trust’s workforce plan, 14 whole time equivalent (WTE) qualified nurses from that ward will be redeployed within the trust – but no mention is made of the 9.5 WTE healthcare assistants.
The plan says that increasing the proportion of qualified nurses will maintain service quality and patient safety as the trust attempts to cut 10 per cent of its budget over 2011-12.
The gains in quality of care are also expected to contribute to the trust’s cost savings programme in the longer term.
But increased efficiency through employing more nurses “will enable further bed closures in 2012-13”, the plan says.
Although the 60:40 target is below the Royal College of Nursing’s recommended minimum of 65:35, RCN head of policy Howard Catton said the move was “encouraging”, and went against a national trend of reducing headcount to save money.
He told Nursing Times: “What we have seen nationally is workforce targeted in order to make efficiency savings, in what appears to be fairly crude cost-cutting measures.”
Mr Catton added that a lower nursing staff level could lead to added costs, as patients were more likely to stay in hospital for longer or experience complications.