National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)
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NICE to produce guidance on safe NHS staffing levels

NICE has announced that it is producing guidance to help ensure NHS services have safe and efficient staffing levels.

Following the poor levels of care witnessed at Mid-Staffordshire hospital, the Francis Inquiry and the Berwick report outlined ways in which the NHS can improve care.

Both reports raised the issue of staffing levels, with the Francis report explicitly stating that inadequate staffing levels at Mid Staffordshire led to the poor quality of care.

The reports identified that NICE should be the lead organisation in the development of guidance for the NHS on staffing levels.

Today, NICE has announced that it will carry out a comprehensive review of the evidence relating staffing levels, and will produce definitive guidance on safe and efficient staffing levels in a range of NHS settings.

The guidance will initially focus on adult wards in acute in-patient settings. Following this, guidance on safer staffing levels will be published from August 2014 for:

  • Accident and emergency units
  • Maternity units
  • Acute in-patient paediatric and neonatal wards
  • Mental health in-patient settings
  • Learning disability in-patient units
  • Mental health community units
  • Learning disabilities in the community
  • Community nursing care teams

The guidance will focus on nursing and midwifery staffing levels, including nursing support staff, to ensure an appropriate balance of skills across the whole team on the wards and in other settings. It will not cover recommendations on setting minimum staffing levels.

NICE will develop the guidance by reviewing the evidence behind existing products, together with any new or additional relevant evidence.

The guidance will allow tools and products currently being used within the NHS to be updated and formally endorsed by NICE.

Professor Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive of NICE, said: "NICE is going to play a key role in ensuring that NHS services have enough staff to provide efficient, safe care for patients. At first, we will focus on nurses in hospital wards where patients need urgent short-term care.

"There is already a lot of information available to help us develop the guidance which will allow NHS organisations and organisations providing care to NHS patients set safe and efficient staffing levels.

"The work will help to ensure that no matter where people live, they should be able to have access to appropriately staffed services."

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