November 19, 2013 8:39 am

Hospitals to publish monthly ward staffing levels

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Staff work in the busy Accident and Emergency department of the recently opened Birmingham Queen Elizabeth Hospital attends a work station on February 7, 2011 in Birmingham, England©Getty

Hospitals will have to publish monthly reports of staffing levels on each ward as part of a drive to boost safety in the NHS to the levels of the airline industry, ministers will announce on Tuesday.

In its formal response to the Francis report into avoidable deaths at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, the government will announce that from next April all hospitals will also have to disclose the percentage of shifts on which safe staffing guidelines are met.

Hospital boards will also be expected publicly to review the evidence on which their assessment of safe staffing levels is based at least once every six months.

The new obligations will be unveiled as Health Education England announces that hospitals will be employing more than 3,700 additional nurses by the end of this financial year.

In his report into Mid Staffordshire, Robert Francis QC recommended that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence should develop “evidence-based tools for establishing the staffing needs of each service” in the NHS.

The government will say on Tuesday that by the end of next year models approved independently by Nice will form the basis of hospitals’ own assessments of whether staffing levels are adequate.

Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer, said there was “very clear evidence of a link between appropriate staffing and the outcomes of our patients . . . We need the right level of staffing in every locality – and that cannot be mandated centrally.”

A new national safety website will publish all the information relevant to safety in every hospital in the country each month, so patients have the same information about their hospitals as NHS managers, ministers will say on Tuesday.

Separately, in a response to a government-commissioned report on patient safety conducted by Don Berwick and published in August, NHS England is setting up a new national patient safety programme to spread best practice across the country and enhance staff skills.

Norman Lamb, health minister, said: “Prof Berwick’s report showed us that, more than anything, safety is about being open and honest. We are determined to see the NHS become a world leader in patient safety – with a safety ethos and level of transparency that matches the airline industry.”

He said experts knew that the right number of staff varied by ward and by shift and should be based on evidence. “We need transparency on staffing levels, backed up by a strong inspection regime to get better, safer care,” added Mr Lamb.

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