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Nursing Forum orders bi-annual nursing skill mix reviews

Nursing staffing levels and skill mix should be reviewed every six months, the Nursing and Care Quality Forum (NCQF) has recommended.

The issue emerged as a “strong theme” during the NCQF's engagement exercise.

In a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, NCQF Chair Sally Brearley urged nurses to rise to the challenge of using the resources available to deliver more “effective and efficient” high quality care.

However, Brearley criticised the slow moving pace of technology advances in supporting nurses to provide care, claiming it “cannot be right” that delivery drivers for the major supermarkets have better technology than many community nurses.

In its first report, the NCQF recommends clinicians and managers at a local level must ensure nurses leaders have the sufficient support and time to lead and assert authority.

The Forum has also called upon the Care Quality Commission to seek assurance that managers are ensuring staffing levels and skill mix among nurses are safe.

Bi-annual reviews of both staffing levels and skill mix should be carried out, with reviews brought forward should “significant change” to a service be proposed.

Better technology, more administrative support and an acceleration of the implementation of hourly rounds are also hoped to free up a nurse's time to provide more quality care to patients.

“We are pleased to have been part of this important Forum which recognises that the vast majority of nurses provide excellent care,”

“We welcome the recommendations which will build on this and improve the ability of nurses, by giving them the right resources and skills, to provide dignified and compassionate care across the board. In particular we welcome the focus on the leadership culture of whole organisations - from board to ward - as pivotal to ensuring that nurses and other staff are able to provide high quality care.

“This report echoes what the RCN has been saying about the importance of staffing levels and skill mix. In these times of financial constraint we must ensure that the level of nursing care is sufficient across all settings.

“Organisation boards and regulators all have a role to play in ensuring the focus is not lost on this important area.”

Brearley warned Cameron against placing all the quality problems in the NHS “at the feet of nurses”, claiming the system “that wraps around them” helps or hinders them in their quest to deliver quality care.

She also reaffirmed the Forum's commitment to supporting nurses in and out of hospital and urged politicians to do the same regardless of media focus.