Recently released figures show that 75.5% of hospital trusts did not meet their nurse staffing targets during May this year. Out of the 139 trusts that submitted figures, 105 of these did not meet targets for the number of nursing hours worked across at least one of their hospital sites. Targets are split into ‘day’ and ‘night’ minimum nursing hours. 86% of trusts did not clock up enough nursing hours during the day and 80% missed nightime nursing targets. Since the Francis Enquiry, which investigated the failings in care at Mid-Staffordshore NHS Foundation, trusts have been required to submit monthly reports detailing their staffing levels.
These figures represent the presence of registered nurses only. Previously, figures were being presented which also included hours from health care assistants and other non-registered care providers. However, concerns were raised that this was skewing the data and not accurately representing levels of care within our hospitals. There has been much discussion recently around the importance of having a safe ratio of registered nurse to patient. We have previously reported on how care quality deteriorates when a nurse is looking after more than 8 patients. Unfortunately 41% of nurses say that they frequently look after more than that number.
These minimum hour targets have been missed despite the NHS having recruited over 5000 new nurses in the last year. This highlights just how understaffed many of our hospitals have been in recent years. Such understaffing added in no small part to the poor quality of care delivered at Mid-Staffs. Elaine Inglesby-Burke, executive nurse director and deputy chief executive at the Salford Royal Foundation Trust, said that she believed many trusts still had a way to go in actually determining what safe staffing levels were in their hospitals. Also commenting on the May target misses, Susan Osborne, chair of the Safe Staffing Alliance, said that the results came as no surprise. She said: “It could be even worse because some trusts may have planned for what were already sub-optimal levels.”
Many trusts have responded to the data by saying that they feel their data collection methods have not yet been perfected due to the monthly report system is still very new.