NICE issues guidelines on safe nurse numbers

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has issued new guidelines on safe staffing levels for nurses. NICE said checks should be carried out if there are more than eight patients to one nurse on a ward in the day. The new guidelines identify a number of red flags that indicate care may be being compromised, and allow patients who feel they are not being looked after properly to request an inquiry into staffing levels.

The guidelines stop short of giving absolute minimums, but the Government said they were a “major step forward”.

NICE said hospital managers must calculate how many nurses are needed on each shift based on an assessment of needs of the patients on the wards, and estimate that implementation of the guidance could cost £200m – about 5 per cent of the cost of employing nurses on hospital wards. However, it said improvements in care would save money in the long run.

Responding to the recommendations, Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary said “hospitals across England are operating way beyond recommended capacity levels and, because of this, too many do not have enough staff to provide safe care.”