NHS Employers comments on RCN report on staffing levels for older people's wards


20 / 3 / 2012

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) report, published on 20 March, calls for a 'patient guarantee' to set out the number of nurses required on older people's wards. The report suggests that older people regularly suffer from a severe shortage of nurses and health care assistants (HCAs), coupled with an inappropriate skill mix of HCAs to nurses.

Dean Royles, director of NHS Employers, commented:

“Mandatory staffing levels can not guarantee safe care. We do not believe that imposing a crude system of staffing ratios is the right way to tackle poor care. Each NHS hospital and service has different demands on its services. Arbitrary ratios could limit 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.

"Indeed the RCN's report says decisions about safe care should be decided by local organisations, giving greater control to ward sisters to plan safe staffing levels."

Getting care right

Jo Webber, NHS Confederation deputy director of policy, says getting care right for every patient, every time should be what every NHS organisation strives for.

She continued: "The answer however lies in tackling a complex range of issues in areas like culture, values and styles of leadership. Staffing levels may well be an issue in some parts of some hospitals, but we should avoid leaping straight to the simplistic solution that we need more nurses everywhere.

Further information

Read more about the RCN report and download a copy of the publication on the RCN website.

Read our media release containing our full response with the NHS Confederation. 

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