Comment

The erosion of safe staffing and the nursing voice

Focusing only on stabilising financial performance puts patients and nurses at risk, says Susan Osborne.
Susan Osborne

Focusing only on stabilising financial performance puts patients and nurses at risk, says Susan Osborne

NHS Improvement chief executive Jim Mackay recently came under fire from the RCN for his comments about safe staffing levels, which suggested that finances are more important than patient care.

Mr Mackey said some organisations had gone too far in meeting recommendations that one nurse should only care for a maximum of eight patients, with some trusts relying on bank and agency staff to meet the 1:8 ratio.

Evidence shows that one nurse caring for more than eight patients is unsafe, and the point at which patient harm occurs. By going against this message Mr Mackey who is not

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Focusing only on stabilising financial performance puts patients and nurses at risk, says Susan Osborne 

NHS Improvement chief executive Jim Mackay recently came under fire from the RCN for his comments about safe staffing levels, which suggested that finances are more important than patient care. 

Mr Mackey said some organisations had gone too far in meeting recommendations that one nurse should only care for a maximum of eight patients, with some trusts relying on bank and agency staff to meet the 1:8 ratio. 

Evidence shows that one nurse caring for more than eight patients is unsafe, and the point at which patient harm occurs. By going against this message Mr Mackey – who is not a registered nurse – is arguably instructing every nurse and midwife to flout their Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) registration and put patients at risk. 

The NMC has made it perfectly clear its Code applies to every registered nurse and midwife, whatever their role. And as recent fitness to practice cases have demonstrated, managers can be sanctioned for presiding over poor care just as frontline nurses can be sanctioned for delivering poor care. 

The suspension of National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance on safe staffing, introduction of the nursing associate role, axing of the Department of Health’s nurse advisors and scrapping the student bursary are all eroding the notion of safe staffing and the nursing voice. 

As long as senior leaders continue to focus only on stabilising financial performance, it will always come at the expense of safe patient care and the wellbeing of nurses and midwives.

 

Susan Osborne

Susan Osborne is chair of the Safe Staffing Alliance 

@SusanSSA 

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