NHS Staffing Levels and Medical Negligence - An Accident Waiting to Happen
Researchers have found that one in four NHS wards operate at staffing levels so low that patient safety is compromised.
The report, from the University of Southampton, found that a 40,000 shortage of nurses means hospitals find it impossible to safely staff their wards. It also highlighted skills gaps in hospitals with healthcare assistants being used to bolster staff numbers.
Following the scandal at Mid Staffs, where hundreds of hospital patients died needlessly as a result of substandard care and staff failings, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommended that a level of eight patients per registered nurse trigger a review of staffing.
But the University of Southampton’s latest report, funded by the research arm of the NHS, found a quarter of NHS wards regularly worked at this unsafe staffing level.
The findings are particularly worrying given a similar report in 2016 found that, for every 25 patients, substituting just one nurse with a lower qualified member of staff was linked with a 21% rise in the odds of patients dying.
The latest study said the number of full-time-equivalent nurses employed in NHS trusts had increased by 10% since 2013, while numbers of healthcare assistants and support staff had grown by 30%.
It is abundantly clear that lives are being put at risk because hospital wards are routinely under skilled and under staffed. Against this backdrop, NHS Trusts are leaving themselves wide open to claims for negligence.