Draft guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence on safe staffing levels in the NHS say more than eight patients per nurse on a “regular basis” can increase the risk of harm in adult hospital wards.
On individual wards, the draft guideline highlights the importance of the nursing team’s awareness of patient needs and “red flag events”, which signal that an immediate response is needed, such as an urgent need for additional nurses.
These “red flag events” include patients not being provided with basic care requirements, such as help with visits to the bathroom, being asked about pain levels or delays in providing medicines.
The lead nurse should consider any “red flag events” as indicators of the ward becoming in danger of being understaffed and, therefore, tailor the number of available nursing staff as needed.
The draft guideline highlights that if each registered nurse is caring for more than eight patients during the day time on a regular basis, there is an increased risk of harm. It stresses the importance of checking if patient needs are adequately being met in these situations.
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