The Shelford Group Chief Nurses have published the following letter in The Times arguing that nurse staffing requirements should be evidence-based, calculated according to local care needs, rather than mandating minimum staffing ratios across the board.
As ten experienced leaders of nursing teams in some of the country’s largest hospitals that care for many patients with complex conditions, we welcome the recognition that adequate nurse staffing levels are crucial to the provision of safe, good quality nursing care (reports, Nov 19 & 20; letters, Nov 18 & 19).
We are pleased to see that in response to the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust public inquiry, the Government has prioritised nurse staffing levels as an issue to be addressed with urgency, and we welcome the move to mandate appropriate levels of staffing. However, we are cautious about achieving this by instigating a minimum ratio number of nurses to patients. There is a danger that a mandated staffing level may be perceived as an optimum staffing level, when in our experience, the number of staff required may differ according to patient need and may be in excess of the mandated level.
We believe that a safer approach would be to enforce the use of a recognised tool at a local level, which calculates the staffing requirement based on the care needs of the specific group of patients. We support the use of the Safer Nursing Care Tool, which is one method that can be used to assist chief nurses to determine optimal nurse staffing levels for in-patient wards.
The Shelford Group Chief Nurses