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RCN concern over move to suspend work on safe staffing guidance

RCN general secretary Peter Carter says safe staffing levels must be based on evidence, as NICE announces it is halting work on developing guidance

RCN general secretary Peter Carter has warned there is a danger that nurse staffing levels could be determined on cost rather than evidence, following an announcement by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) that it is suspending work on developing guidance on safe staffing.

Responding to the announcement, Dr Carter said: 'Hardworking nurses are under a great deal of pressure and need to be properly supported, and these NICE guidelines played a vital role in doing this. If staffing levels are not based on evidence there is a danger they will be based on cost. We must not repeat the mistakes of the past, where staffing levels were cut to save money, and patients suffered as a result.'

NICE chief executive Andrew Dillon said: 'Making sure hospitals and community services are safely staffed remains an important priority for the NHS. The guidance that NICE has already published on safe staffing levels in adult acute wards and in maternity settings was widely welcomed and will continue to be used.'

'The announcement by Simon Stevens of a review of the approach to setting safe staffing levels means that the work to secure safe levels of staffing in accident and emergency departments, and in mental health and community settings, is likely now to be taken forward as part of NHS England’s wider programme of work to help the NHS deal with the challenges it is facing over the next few years. NICE stands ready to support this work using the experience we have gained over the past two years,' he added.

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