Voices - We all want safe staffing, and NICE can deliver it, says Susan Osborne

Less than one month in power and the government pulls the plug on the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence providing independent guidance on safe nurse staffing levels across the NHS.

This decision is a serious mistake, because NHS England – which now has this job, led by chief nurse Jane Cummings – cannot provide an independent view on staffing. Meanwhile, NHS Wales has approved a bill on safe staffing to the next stage – an interesting conundrum.

Former MP and Safe Staffing Alliance supporter Andrew George has described Jane Cummings’s comments as ‘unarguable platitudes’, and I would echo his question ‘Who on earth is arguing that we should have the wrong staff, with the wrong skills, in the wrong place at the wrong time?’

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens talks about austerity, stating that £3.4 billion was spent on temporary staff– with no recognition that nurses are working for agencies because of unsafe staffing levels. The next recommendation is likely to be capping agency staffing, which will result in staff cuts on top of already unsafe levels.

The other mantra we hear is about the gap between graduate qualifications and certificates of care. This heralds the introduction of the band 4 post, which in old speak means ‘bring back the state enrolled nurse’.

The Safe Staffing Alliance is calling for the NICE programme to be reinstated, along with investment in safe nurse staffing levels across the NHS.

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