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Tuesday 25 October 2016 Instagram
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Blog: RCN's Peter Carter on staffing

Blog: RCN's Peter Carter on staffing

Blog: RCN's Peter Carter on staffing

Exclusive The chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing says Berwick's review into patient safety should be acted on now

This week, the publication of Professor Don Berwick’s review into patient safety has shown yet another leading expert calling for the NHS to ensure there are the right numbers of nursing staff to care for patients.

Of the numerous factors that lead to poor care, few are as important as unsafe staffing levels. This has been recognised by Francis, Keogh and Berwick, all of whom have called for trusts to guarantee appropriate and adequate staffing levels, using evidence-based tools.

Berwick recommends that nurse staffing levels and skills mix should be consistent with the scientific evidence on safe staffing, adjusted to local context. We know that the only way to achieve patient safety and high quality care is through mandatory safe staffing levels, complemented by flexible tools that allow workforce leaders to respond to local demands.

Through our Frontline First campaign, we are monitoring cuts to nursing posts not just in acute settings, but in the community as well, using evidence from our members on the ground. We know that the number of district nurses has fallen by 40% between 2002 and 2012. Furthermore, just five district nurses were trained in London in 2012.

For those nurses who remain, the situation is becoming increasingly difficult. A 2012 RCN survey revealed that 59% of community nurses spend less time with their patients than they did a year ago, while just 6% said they always had time to meet the needs of their patients. Just last week a British Medical Journal study showed that most ward nurses are forced to ration care because they simply don’t have enough time. 

Put simply, the fewer nurses on the ward and in the community, the more patients will have their lives put at risk. Mandatory safe staffing levels are now a matter of extreme urgency.

The recent plethora of expert, evidence-based reports on patient safety present us with a once in a generation opportunity to deliver safe staffing. The government must act now on this crucial issue that for too long has put patient lives at risk.


It's unbelievable that it's come to someone notice that more staff are required on wards and in departments. I retire at 60, 4 yrs ago and 20 yrs before that RGNs like my self where saying that more staff Not including training staff where required on the wards day and night duty. Other area also required more nurses to be able to do there job/role as trained. The wards lost a lot of ENs when the change to RG by the government was introduce so that left the wards understaffed and the care assistants where not trained as they are these days. ( they are replacing the old ENs).
I would also like to see the Matron back in charge of Hospitals and Staff lockers so no nurse goes home or come into work with their uniform on, thus cutting down infections. Two cleaners to each ward. I would also stop daily open visiting hours thus give time for wards to be properly cleaned as they use to be and frequent infection testing. Now I wonder who or what Hospital will stick it's neck out to do this and become a leader in Health for the inpatients?? Malcolm Smith RGM Dip DN EN Rtd.

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