Comment

Susan Osborne: Whimsical workforce guidance won’t help create a safer NHS

Guidance has belatedly been published on safe nurse staffing levels in five new healthcare settings, but the sanitised documents are silent on the real requirement for a workforce that is safe and fit for practice, says Susan Osborne

Guidance has belatedly been published on safe nurse staffing levels in five new healthcare settings, but the sanitised documents are silent on the real requirement for a workforce that is safe and fit for practice, says Susan Osborne


Picture: Guzelian

More than two and a half years after NHS England asked the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to suspend its work on safe nurse staffing, guidance has finally been published for five new healthcare settings.

Published at the end of January by regulator NHS Improvement on behalf of the National Quality Board, it covers learning disability, mental health and district nursing services, along with adult inpatient acute care and draft guidance on children and young people’s services.

It comes as no surprise that there are no recommended ratios of registered nurse to patient numbers, with each guideline silent on the real requirement for safe nurse staffing levels.

In these sanitised documents, all working groups indicate the complexities of their service, and call for further empirical research on multidisciplinary settings.

Known staffing problems

But as Iain Upton, patient perspective working group member for district nursing guidance, says: ‘In an evidence-based culture, do we do nothing until evidence is gathered or do we take some action to tackle the known (district nurse) staffing problems?’

Today, I am chairing a safe staffing summit that brings together eminent nurse leaders from all sectors who can show their actual workforce requirements, based on professional judgements and clinical outcomes that demonstrate harm-free care.

These nurses do not need whimsical guidance – they just need to be listened to and their professional evidence implemented. Otherwise, we are no further forward in creating a workforce that is safe and fit for practice.


Susan Osborne is chair of the Safe Staffing Alliance 

 

This article is for subscribers only

Jobs