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NICE: Draft nurse staffing guidelines released

There is an increased risk of harm if a nurse is caring for more than eight patients at a time guidance has shown.

The safe staffing advisory committee at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has revealed draft guidance for staffing levels in hospitals.  

The guidance stresses the importance of checking if patient needs are adequately being met if nurses are stretched when looking after them. 

The lead nurse should consider any 'red flag events' as indicators of the ward becoming in danger of being under-staffed and therefore tailor the number of available nursing staff as needed.

The draft guideline calls for hospital boards and senior management to take greater responsibility and includes step-by-step guidance on how to determine the number of nursing staff that should be funded. 

The evidence shows providing a higher proportion of registered nurses in the skill mix contributes to better outcomes for patients.

NICE will be assessing a range of practical toolkits designed to assist in estimating staffing requirements. Staffing toolkits which comply with guideline recommendations and meet specified criteria will be given the NICE endorsement.

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE said: “Following on from the Francis and Berwick reports, the Department of Health and NHS England asked NICE to develop evidence-based guidelines to advise the NHS about safe staffing. 

“Our first draft recommendations respond to the immediate expectations set out by the National Quality Board and focuses on wards that provide overnight care for adult patients in acute hospitals.”

The draft guideline is available on the NICE website