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Setting appropriate ward nurse staffing levels

18 September 2006
This document provides information, tools, principles and a benchmark skill mix ratio for nurse staffing levels on NHS acute general wards.

This policy draws together: 

  • Research evidence linking registered nurse numbers and expertise to patient outcomes
  • Nursing workforce and nurse staffing levels data
  • Methods available for setting nurse staffing levels
  • Discussion about setting nurse: patient ratios

It provides guidance and principles on how to review ward staffing levels including the recommendation that a benchmark ward establishment skill mix ratio is set at 65% registered nurses : 35% health care assistants unless or until a through staffing review is undertaken in accordance with RCN principles.

If you have any comments or wish to contribute further, please email

Page last updated - 14/08/2015