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Monday 17 June 2019
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Elaine Inglesby-Burke
Elaine Inglesby-Burke

Salford Royal Part of Alliance to Call Time on Unsafe Staffing Levels

Salford Royal’s Executive Director of Nursing Elaine Inglesby-Burke is backing the call for hospitals to set staffing levels in the interests of patient safety.


Elaine is one of a number of senior nurses across the country warning that patient care is unsafe on wards where each registered nurse is looking after more than eight patients, a regular occurrence in many hospitals.


Safe and Sound, the Safe Staffing Alliance, made up of senior expert nurses, including Elaine, says the 1:8 figure is based on hard evidence and they have issued new recommendations that ‘under no circumstances’ should staffing be allowed to fall to below that level.


A study by researchers at Southampton University, King’s College London and the National Nursing Research Unit found that hospitals with eight patients per registered nurse (during the day time on general acute wards) would see around 20 extra deaths a year more than better staffed hospitals. Those units with worse staffing levels could expect more ‘excess’ deaths. A national nursing survey found that wards are run with one registered nurse to eight patients or more approximately 40% of the time.


Elaine, who is also a member of the Prime Minister’s Nursing and Care Quality Forum and the only nurse selected to be on the National Advisory Group on the Safety of Patients in England, said: “This is a great opportunity for hospitals to address safe staffing levels in the interests of both patients and staff. It is guidance for Boards and the public to understand that this is a fundamental standard for staffing that should not be compromised’.


A statement issued by the Safe Staffing Alliance to coincide with International Nurses Day emphasises: “For the sake of clarity, more than eight patients per registered nurse is the level considered to be unsafe and putting patients at risk. It is not a recommended minimum.


 “For nurses to provide compassionate care which treats patients with dignity and respect, higher levels will be needed and these should be determined by every health care provider.”


Katherine Murphy, chief executive of The Patients Association, pointed out that in the latest Care Quality Commission inpatient survey (CQC 2012) staffing levels were a key issue raised by patients: “Patients said they thought all staff, and in particular nurses, were overworked. A frequent comment was that staff were caring but that they “did not have enough time for you.


“The fact is without adequate staffing levels, overstretched nurses are not able to give patients the care they need.”


Speaking on behalf of the Alliance, Professor Elizabeth Robb, Chief Executive of the Florence Nightingale Foundation, added: “For the first time ever, nursing’s leadership is united on this. We are coming together to stand up for patient safety and for the profession.


‘We are saying that, with a ratio of one registered nurse to more than eight patients, there is a significantly increased risk of harm.  We hope that by coming up with a figure we will give Directors of Nursing the evidence they need to argue for the staffing levels necessary to provide good care.


“If government are saying that staffing levels are a local decision, then it is more important than ever to set out clear guidance.’