West Cornwall MP, Andrew George, has welcomed the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) announcement that acute hospitals must follow their guidelines of never allowing registered nurse staffing levels to fall below one registered nurse to eight patients (excluding the nurse in charge). Mr George also welcomed the announcement from NICE in a House of Commons exchange with the Health Secretary today.
NICE has also identified a number of ‘red flags’ which highlight when care could be compromised. If a red flag is identified by a patient or member of staff, the new advice from the NHS is to take action immediately. Scenarios which would constitute a red flag include:- patients not being helped on a visit to the bathroom, patients not receiving their medication or delays of 30 minutes or more in providing pain relief.
Mr George, who is a member of the Health Select Committee and has led a long term campaign in Parliament for safe staffing (including his Parliamentary debate on acute hospital staffing on 15th January 2014: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140115/debtext/140115-0004.htm) – and has repeatedly called for the “Never more than 8″ campaign of the Safe Staffing Alliance said, “This is welcome news for our safe staffing campaign. The long campaign I have waged with nursing professionals in the Safe Staffing Alliance (SSA) has produced the outcome we have been pressing for.
“There just haven’t been enough registered nurses on our hospital wards. It has put patients at risk. That’s what I’ve been telling Health Ministers for years and repeated again earlier this year in a debate which I led in the Commons.
“Whilst much of the health debate has become obsessed with changing and tweaking management tools for Commissioners, incentivising health systems with “payment by results” and sophisticated “tariffs”, creating new “pathways of care” and spending (and mostly wasting) £billions on complicated IT systems, our frontline nurses have been run ragged.
“Working with the Safe Staffing Alliance (whose members include the Florence Nightingale Foundation, the Patients Association, Nursing Standard and the Royal College of Nursing, amongst others) I have warned that there are at least 4,000 “excess deaths” in hospitals in the country as a result of there being inadequate numbers of registered nurses at ward level. The SSA recommended a “fundamental standard” where a limit of eight patients to each registered nurse should never be breached.
“Every time I raised the case, senior officials or Ministers retreated behind the same management babble, claiming that it was more a question of “culture” or “leadership” than basic numbers of registered nurses.
“The announcement from NICE cuts through the management babble and gives us a simple measure. There have been many occasions in most hospitals where financial and management pressures have forced nurses to work in clinically unsafe environments. This has to end and this announcement is an important first step.
“This announcement is excellent news, not just for the nurses who have been put under so much pressure in recent years, but for overall patient care.”