Following the government's official response to the Francis Report, hospitals will now be required to report the staffing levels on every ward in every hospital on a monthly basis.
The need for appropriate staffing levels is clear. Patients require skilled nurses to help them when they are at their most vulnerable. Sufficient numbers of nurses are needed to provide care of the quality and quantity that ensures the best possible outcomes for patients.
Having been an in-patient for surgery more times than I care to remember, I know that sufficient numbers of nurses with the right skills are a key element of recovery. Being a patient in a hospital is a frightening experience; the anxiety for patients and their families will multiply tenfold if they believe they will not receive the nursing care they need.
The first time I had surgery, I was terrified. I had never had a general anaesthetic and was apprehensive about the effects. What caused me the greatest anxiety was the thought of having insufficient numbers of nurses on the ward to manage my postoperative care.
After much lobbying, my husband was permitted to sit with me all night after I returned from theatre, so that he would notice any deterioration or haemorrhage. I need not have worried, the nurses were fabulous and the care was excellent. I had a more comfortable night than my husband and I left the hospital a week later proud to be a member of the nursing family.
The requirements for publishing staffing levels will ensure the issue is addressed on every ward and that it should cease to be a cause of patient anxiety in the future.
But what about community nurses? How many are needed? What is a safe staffing level in the community? This neglected area is now receiving significant attention, through Jane Cummings' Community Nursing Strategy Programme, which is deliberately focusing on the number and workload of district nurses and general practice nurses.
The QNI is delighted to be participating in this work and we look forward to reporting on outcomes next year.