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Hospitals told to publish staffing levels

Hospitals told to publish staffing levels
Hospitals across England have been told by secretary of state for health Jeremy Hunt to publish monthly statistics about staffing levels.

Until now there had been no requirements for NHS trusts to disclose this information to members of the public in anything other than a Freedom of Information request, something that had to be done on a case-by-case basis and remains expensive for cash-strapped authorities.

Mr Hunt told MPs he will commission the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) to create a blueprint for minimum staffing levels across each individual ward in English hospitals.

This, the Conservative politician stated, will take into account patient acuteness, average age of bed occupants and the size of the ward itself, as a one size fits all approach would not be helpful and might even compromise levels of care and lead to clinical negligence claims.

The Safe Staffing Alliance, which includes the Unison union, the Patients Association and the Royal College of Nursing, has previously backed the idea of implementing a fixed ratio of patients to staff of eight to one.

But while this kind of ratio is not expected to be put in place, patient groups will likely welcome the pledge from Mr Hunt that any hospitals found to be in contravention of the recommended Nice minimum levels will be subject to an immediate Care Quality Commission investigation and inspection.

The opposition Labour Party welcomed the move, but said that the government's previous "failings" had led to 6,000 fewer nurses on wards than when it was in power.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: "We have repeatedly warned the government about nurse numbers falling to dangerous levels. 

"This new focus on recruitment is overdue but it shouldn’t have taken this long and it won't be enough to repair the damage of three years of falling nurse numbers on David Cameron's watch. He is allowing the NHS to go into a dangerous winter with a shortage of nurses."

By Chris Stevenson