Less than 10 per cent of hospitals meet nurse staffing targets

Figures published on the NHS Choices website, an accumulation of information from 225 acute hospital sites, found 92 per cent did not meet their planned staffing levels for qualified nurses working during the day.

NHS Choices also revealed 81 per cent failed to employ enough registered nurses to work night shifts. Overall, 79 per cent missed the target for registered nurse staffing across both day and night.

The data collected last month, reveals a gradually declining position for nurse staffing during 2015, while figures from January construed 85 per cent missed their staffing targets for nurse day hours, with 87 per cent falling short of targets in April.

The monthly reporting of safe staffing was made a requirement after the Francis report into care failing at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust. In light of the recruitment crisis, the NHS has struggled to recruit nurses due to a national shortage, in addition to the forecast of a £2 billion deficit before the year is up.

Bradford Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust was found to be the organisation with the smallest percentage of day nurse hours filled, with 72 per cent at its St Luke’s site, followed by Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals Foundation Trust with 75 per cent at its Ashford Hospital site.

Bradford’s deputy chief nurse, Sally Scales, maintained the trust was continuing to ‘focus heavily’ on nurse staffing levels and actively recruiting both newly-trained nurses and those who wished to return to practice.

She said: “Local open days and recruitment fairs are helping to bolster our staff numbers as we seek to recruit locally, nationally and internationally.

“Our preference is always to directly employ our nursing staff rather than use agencies as we believe it leads to a better patient experience and helps to maintain a high level and continuity of care.”

Chris Hopson, chief executive of the organisation NHS Providers, which represents trusts, warned the sector was under ‘significant pressure around the recruitment of permanent staff’.

He said: “One of the biggest issues facing the NHS is how we balance the pressure around finance and the demand around staffing levels.”

Meanwhile, Karen Dawber, director of nursing at Warrington and Halton Hospitals Foundation Trust, said: “It is a constant daily battle to manage staffing. The main areas for me are accident and emergency, acute medicine and intensive care, which has become a problem again in the past 12 months."

Despite investing £870,000 in nursing staff, Dawber claimed it was simply not keeping pace with patient care demand, in particular the increasing prevalence of one-to-one care.

She added: “Long term, it’s absolutely about the number of nurses and we also need to look at doing something different like the band 4 nurse assistant. There is a role for a tier of nursing who are not graduates.”

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