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Understaffing putting patients' lives at risk despite post-Francis policies

16 Apr 2019

Any short-term progress in hospitals has fallen away.

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The RCN says lessons from the Francis Report are being forgotten, despite this being a once-in-a-generation opportunity to increase nurse staffing levels across all health and care settings.

The comments were made in response to the publication of a new study: Implementation, Impact and Costs of Policies for Safe Staffing in Acute NHS Trusts.

The University of Southampton report found that hospital wards across the NHS in England are still understaffed and putting patient lives at risk despite new policies coming into force as a result of the 2013 Mid-Staffordshire Inquiry. According to the study, hospitals are facing major challenges in recruiting and retaining registered nurses. 

RCN England Director Patricia Marquis said: “It will trouble patients and the public today to hear the experts warn again of the deadly risks being run and that some parts of the NHS have one in five posts vacant, according to this report.”

She added: “The report is right to raise concerns around the increased numbers of support staff, too – these increases must be matched by rises in registered nurses if we’re to keep the full and appropriate mix of skills in care settings.”

The RCN is calling on the Government to commit to a new law for England to provide accountability for staffing levels for safe and effective care, and provide an additional investment of at least £1 billion in nurse higher education to retain the existing workforce and train the next generation of nurses.

More than 7,000 RCN members and supporters have so far taken action to help bring an end to the ongoing workforce crisis affecting health and care services in England. NHS England and NHS Improvement are now seeking views on changes to legislation that they say will help deliver the Long Term Plan.

Using the automated tool we’ve created, it takes only one minute to send the letter and respond to the consultation.

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Further information

The Inquiry led by Sir Robert Francis, QC, into the failings in care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust between 2005 and 2009, led to new national policies, including the introduction in 2014 of NICE guidelines on safe staffing for acute hospital wards.

Read the University of Southampton report.