Hospital relaxes staffing rules meaning one nurse will care for twelve patients

The move comes amid unprecedented demand for services due to COVID-19 which has seen the trust declare a critical incident.

James McKay
18 November 2020

Staffing inside critical care areas will “stay in line with business as usual”.

University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW) have reportedly relaxed nurse staffing rules to allow one nurse to care for up to twelve patients.

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The move comes amid unprecedented demand for healthcare services due to COVID-19 which has seen the trust declare an “internal critical incident”.

Late last week ward nurses at the trust were told; “Adult inpatient wards will be staffed on a nurse to patient ratio of 1 registered nurse (RN) to 10 patients during the day, and 1 registered nurse to 12 patients during the night.”

Staffing inside critical care and high dependency areas will “stay in line with business as usual”.

Unlike Scotland and Wales and despite ongoing calls from senior nursing figures, England currently lacks any form of minimum safe nursing staffing legislation.

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Guidance from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) states that “there is evidence of increased risk of harm” when nurses care for more than 8 patients. 

A senior nurse at the trust speaking to NursingNotes said the decision has been made due to a combination of factors. Ongoing “recruitment and retention issues” combined with a “large number of staff self-isolating” had caused significant staffing issues for the trust.

She added that although the trust was “trying its best”, it was “hard to see light at the end” of the tunnel due to the current government guidance on self-isolation.

Anthony Johnson, a nurse and lead organiser for Nurses United UK, commented on the news;  “Even before COVID-19 we knew staffing within our NHS was not safe.

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“Now NHS trusts are being forced to ignore the evidence of the dramatic risks to patient safety when 1 nurse is caring for more than 8 patients.

“I hope all my sisters and brothers on the frontline are putting in incident reports every shift and finding the time to rest when they can. We won’t beat COVID at the expense of our health staff. You don’t have a health service without it’s nurses.

Carolyn Mills, chief nurse at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is not a blanket change to nurse to patient ratios in our hospital but a clinically- led decision we have taken in some areas where it is safe and appropriate to do so and to help us manage the increasing demand for our services during this global pandemic.

“These decisions are under constant review based on clinical and staffing needs on shift by shift basis while senior clinicians are also on hand to offer wellbeing support and care to colleagues if required.”

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