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Nurses need to promote message of safe staffing, says leading academic

Peter Griffiths calls for 'concrete' arguments to be made.
Peter Griffiths

A leading nurse researcher has called for 'concrete' arguments to be made for ensuring safe staffing levels in hospitals.

University of Southampton Health Services Research chair Peter Griffiths made the call in the light of an update to safe staffing research that he is leading, which suggests a link between replacing registered nurses with healthcare assistants (HCAs) and mortality rates.

Speaking at the Safe Staffing Summit in London on 14 July, Professor Griffiths said he wants the whole nursing profession, but especially nurse leaders, to promote the message of ensuring safe levels of registered nurse staffing.

Forceful arguments

He said: We need to make arguments and we need to be very concrete about the force of those arguments, not just based on sentiment, not just based on registered nurses looking

A leading nurse researcher has called for 'concrete' arguments to be made for ensuring safe staffing levels in hospitals.


University of Southampton Health Services Research chair Peter Griffiths.
Picture: Chris Balcombe

University of Southampton Health Services Research chair Peter Griffiths made the call in the light of an update to safe staffing research that he is leading, which suggests a link between replacing registered nurses with healthcare assistants (HCAs) and mortality rates.

Speaking at the Safe Staffing Summit in London on 14 July, Professor Griffiths said he wants the whole nursing profession, but especially nurse leaders, to promote the message of ensuring safe levels of registered nurse staffing.

Forceful arguments

He said: ‘We need to make arguments and we need to be very concrete about the force of those arguments, not just based on sentiment, not just based on registered nurses looking after themselves and their own jobs.

‘It’s about sound, scientific evidence that says nurse staffing levels really are linked to important outcomes including, but not limited to, patient death.

‘Nurse staffing levels do matter; there is no evidence that you can safely replace registered nurses with less trained professionals, and quite a lot of evidence that there is harm when you do it.'

Professor Griffiths is the lead author of the Nurse Staffing study, whose preliminary findings Nursing Standard first reported in April.

The researchers found a correlation between lower nursing numbers and an increased risk of death on wards in a large hospital in England during a three-year period.

HCAs and mortality risk

Reiterating an update initially announced at the Health Services Research UK symposium earlier this month, Professor Griffiths said that further research now suggested a link between having more than the average number of HCAs on a ward and a higher risk of mortality.

He said: 'It's an initially quite perplexing finding, but actually if you stop and think about it, it makes sense. We need HCAs on the ward and having enough of them contributes to safe care.

‘But as you move above the average, this suggests to me that what is happening is substitution. Or we have a got an inability to properly supervise these staff members, and so the chance of mortality increases.’


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