Patients to know the staffing levels in each hospital throughout England

The Francis Report, commissioned because of the massive failings at the Mid Staffordshire Hospital at a cost of £13 million has come up with around 290 recommendations to be implemented in the NHS.

The repercussions of the Mid Staffordshire Hospital scandal where many patient deaths were highlighted as unnecessary over a number of years has led to the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt proposing a new style of reporting, aimed at improving standards and confidence in the NHS.

From April 2014 NHS trusts will be subject to a new law where they are required to announce staffing levels in each ward.  This information will be available to all members of the public through a new national safety website and each NHS trust will be ordered to publish their figures on a monthly basis. The website is likely to be controlled either by the NHS or the Quality Care Commission.  Those trusts that are found to be falling short of the guidelines could find themselves being investigated by the QCC and being at the receiving end of an immediate health inspection. It has also been suggested that the website will publish death rates and any incidents where patients have been put at unnecessary risk, otherwise known as ‘near misses’ or ‘never events.’

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has been requested to draw up some guidelines on how to effectively measure staffing levels and what sort of levels are appropriate for certain sizes of ward, types of illness and a host of other influencing factors. The Safe Staffing Alliance, which has the Royal College of Nursing, Unison and the Patients Association under its umbrella, supports the notion of fixed staff to patient ratios. However, these types of measures are not likely to feature in the proposals.

Apparently, the NHS are about to embark on a recruitment drive and plan to employ more than 3,700 extra nurses by the end of this financial year. However, figures from the Labour Party suggest that 6,000 nurses have left the profession since 2010, so the suggested increase will not help to ease the pressure in many hospitals.

The Chief Nursing Officer, Jane Cummings said that the publication of staffing information would ultimately lead to better levels of care.

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