It has recently been revealed in the press that 17 NHS hospitals have been deemed by the CQC to have dangerously low staffing levels.
In their latest inspection reports CQC found that all 17 were failing to meet adequate standards of staffing in relation to Outcomes 13 and/or 14 of the Essential Standards which relate to there being ‘enough members of staff to keep people safe and meet their health and welfare needs’ and staff being ‘properly trained and supervised, and have the chance to develop and improve their skills’ respectively.
The Sunday Telegraph listed all 17 hospitals. Also named alongside these hospitals are the London Ambulance Service and eight Mental Health trusts.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he expected those named to take “swift” action in response to these findings. He said “there could be no excuse for not providing appropriate staff levels when across the NHS generally there are now more clinical staff working than there were in May 2010 – including nearly 5,000 more doctors and almost 900 extra midwives”
He added “Nursing leaders have been very clear that hospitals should publish staffing levels and the evidence to support them twice a year. We fully support this and will put an extra £12.5 billion into the health service by 2015”
The Labour party, who released the information, have highlighted that since the coalition came into power nursing numbers in England have decreased by nearly 7,000.
These revelations follow research conducted by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in March 2012 which suggested that low staffing levels were compromising the care of the elderly and that everything from basic communication to care for the dying was suffering. The results of the research led the RCN to call for a minimum level of staffing to ensure improved standards and suggested a staffing ratio of one registered nurse for every five to seven patients in the NHS.
However some managers have commented that setting arbitrary levels could end up harming care. The Director of NHS Employers, Dean Royles said “Mandatory staffing levels cannot guarantee safe care. We do not believe that imposing a crude system of staffing ratios is the right way to tackle poor care.’” He further stated that “arbitrary ratios could limit an organisations’ ability to plan care in a way that is best for the patient. The last thing we want is a minimum standard becoming a ceiling rather than a floor.”
In addition to this it has also emerged that 12 hospitals have been told by CQC that they are failing to meet patients’ basic nutritional needs and they must devote more time to ensuring patients eat properly. Areas of concern include patients not receiving the help they require to eat, patients being interrupted during meals and patients food being taken away before they have had the opportunity to finish.
Katherine Murphy from the Patients Association said “we have had many calls to our helpline from people telling us that there were not enough staff to help them eat, especially when elderly patients were concerned” she further stated that “Time and again food has been left out of their reach, or the lid is left on, which is difficult for them to take off.”
These revelations indicate a need for many hospitals to increase their nursing staff levels to ensure that all patients are receiving an acceptable and appropriate standard of care. The ratio of nurses to patients will be at the discretion of each individual hospital however it is clear that this needs to be improved in a number of cases.