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Hancock will ‘consider’ safe staffing legislation in England

Both Scotland and Wales have already announced plans to introduce minimum safe staffing numbers. 

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RCN

The health secretary has said he would be “happy to look at proposals” on enshrining safe staffing numbers into law.

Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, has admitted he would ‘consider’ the implementation of safe staffing legislation in England.

Both Scotland and Wales have already announced plans to introduce minimum safe staffing numbers.

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Royal College of Nursing members quizzed the health secretary on key issues during the college’s summit to announce the clampdown on aggression towards health care staff.

During the questions and answer session, the health secretary was asked if he would look to enshrine safe nurse staffing levels in law, Mr. Hancock replied; “I’m very happy to look at proposals around that. The need for safe staffing is vital of course,”.

Safe staffing laws could have ‘unintended consequences’.

In a statement following the summit, Mr. Hancock warned that safe staffing legislation could come with “unintended consequences”. 

Before finally adding; “I wouldn’t rule out legislation but let’s keep a close eye on how it works in Wales and in Scotland, if they do bring it in, and keep the discussion going.”

The latest official figures from NHS Improvement show 41,722 nursing vacancies – with this figure expected to rise further post-Brexit.

A spokesperson for the RCN said: “We were very pleased to hear that the Health Secretary appears willing to consider enshrining safe staffing levels in law, and especially pleased that he made the remarks while at our summit on attacks on staff last week.

“If he is serious about tackling staffing levels, we look forward to working closely with him to work out how legislation, plus sufficient funding, could ensure safer care for patients in the future”.

The RCN has published Mr. Hancock’s answers to other key questions that were submitted by members.

Workforce

Patient safety in danger unless nurse numbers increased, warns RCN

The college is encouraging people to speak out about the impact of England’s nurse shortage.

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There have only been an extra 9,894 nurses recruited to NHS hospitals since 2013.

The shortage of nursing staff in England is putting patient safety in danger, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) warns today as it use the first World Patient Safety Day to launch a new campaign.

The campaign encourages the people to speak out about the potentially devastating impact of the nursing shortage.

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There are an estimated 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies in England alone.

It calls for legislation to be brought forward in England to help address the nursing workforce crisis. Earlier this year, nurses and support workers in Scotland secured new legislation on safe staffing levels after a nurse staffing law was introduced in Wales in 2016.

There are not enough nurses.

A new analysis by the RCN shows that for every one extra nurse NHS acute Trusts in England have managed to recruit in the five years since 2013/14, there were 157 extra admissions to hospital as emergencies or for planned treatment.

Last year the number of extra admissions for every additional nurse taken on increased to 217.  The analysis shows that the extra 9,894 nurses recruited to NHS hospitals since 2013/14 is dwarfed by the additional 1,557,074 admissions over the same period.

Public carried out to mark the campaign launch reveals that 71 per cent of the public think there are not enough nurses to provide safe care to patients and 67 per cent of the public in England wrongly think the Government has a legal responsibility to ensure there are sufficient nursing staff.

The 2013 Francis Report on failings of care Stafford Hospital concluded that the main factor responsible was a significant shortage of nurses at the hospital.

Issuing a stark warning

Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary, said: “Today we’re issuing a stark warning that patient safety is being endangered by nursing shortages.  Staffing shortfalls are never simply numbers on a spreadsheet – they affect real patients in real communities.

“We’re calling on the public in England to fight for nurses and sign our petition calling on the Westminster Government to invest in the future workforce and make clear who is accountable in law for safe patient care. 

“Our polling shows almost two-thirds of people already fear there aren’t enough nurses to provide safe care – and they want recruiting more nurses to be the top priority for any extra funding for the NHS in England. 

“Nurses are the single most trusted professional group in the whole country, with 96% of the public placing them at the top of a list of occupations including doctors, teachers, the police and scientists.  Nursing staff are asking for your support in calling time on this crisis.”

‘Too much pressure’.

Responding to the RCN’s campaign on safe and effective staffing for patient care; Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, Chief Executive and Registrar at the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), said: “Every time we, or someone we love, needs care, we trust nurses and midwives with the right skills and knowledge to be there to meet our needs.

“The RCN analysis echoes some of the NMC’s own findings. Our survey of nurses and midwives leaving the register revealed that almost a third of respondents cited too much pressure leading to stress and/or poor mental health as a top reason for leaving. And our research with the public tells us they fear these most trusted professionals are held back by the pressures of today’s health and care system.

“You only have to look at some of the stories we are sharing in our Always Caring, Always Nursing campaign to see the difference these dedicated professionals can make in people’s lives.

“Additional resources to support nurses and midwives is a wise investment now and for the future.”

You can sign a petition to support the campaign. 

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Health Politics

‘NHS Passports’ will allow staff to ‘plug gaps’ in any hospital at short notice

A union has warned that patient care should not be compromised for convenience. 

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Resus NHS Hospital

Staff will be able to any hospital to plug gaps in staffing and improve patients’ care.

Healthcare staff in England will soon be able to move seamlessly between hospital sites in a bid to make it easier to take on new roles, plug gaps in staffing and improve patients’ care.

Following successful pilot projects, all hospitals in England are being urged to sign-up to passporting agreements, which will remove the need for inductions and other admin when staff move between NHS organisations.

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Clinicians working in hospitals that have these agreements will be able to freely move between any hospital to provide patient care.

The deployment of staff across a number of different NHS sites through passporting has already been trialed successfully at five hospitals across London.

Serious concerns.

Jeeves Wijesuriya, Chair of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) Junior Doctors Committee admitted the scheme may bring about some positive changes but warned that patient care should not be compromised for convenience.

They added; “it is important employers do not use these changes to redeploy staff to unknown areas outside of their training programme at short notice and without agreement – risking our patients safety, training and worsening morale through lack of autonomy.

“Furthermore, the BMA has serious concerns over plans to cut inductions as part of the scheme.

“Inductions are key for patient safety and play an essential part in ensuring that doctors are able to safely practice in new environments.”

Helping to build careers.

Prerana Issar, the Chief People Officer for NHS England and NHS Improvement said that the move will help to build the careers of clinicians.

She said; “This shows we are delivering on our Long Term Plan promises to improve flexible working for staff and ensuring the right clinician is available for patients.

“By making unwieldy paper staff schedules a thing of the past and introducing passporting, we are supporting our world-class staff so they can not only continue to give patients brilliant care, but further build their careers as they do so.”

NHS England also announced the nationwide introduction of e-rostering.

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