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NICE suspends community nursing staffing guidance

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Credit: Kate Stanworth Community nursing services will not receive guidelines for safe staffing levels

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) will suspend publishing safe staffing guidelines for nursing despite having not published any for community nursing.

Instead NHS England will now take forward the issue of staffing as part of a wider programme of service improvement. Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, told delegates at the NHS Confederation Annual conference: 'I have asked Jane Cummings, the chief nursing officer, to take a look at whether it would make more sense in respect of the new staffing guidelines that are being proposed for various parts of the health service, to instead remit that to our new urgent and emergency care vanguards and the mental health taskforce and various others – so a different approach to answering those questions.'

Following the Francis Report in 2013, which recommended clearer guidance for nursing safe staffing levels, NICE was to produce safe staffing levels for nurses in secondary and community care.

NICE has already released guidelines for adult acute wards and maternity settings which will continue to be used.

However, guidelines for community nursing teams, mental health in the community and learning disabilities in the community were still in the consultation process, meaning a completed final guideline was not released. Those guidelines were due to be released in 2016 and 2017.

Chief nursing officer at NHS England, Jane Cummings wrote an open letter to NHS England and Health Education England on 3 June outlining plans for the nursing workforce. She identified five key areas that need to be focused on: permanent staff, efficiency, planning, progression and career escalator and multi-professional working.

Sir Andrew Dillon, NICE chief executive, said: 'Making sure that hospitals and community services are safely staffed remains an important priority for the NHS. The guidance that NICE has already published on safe staffing levels in adult acute wards and in maternity settings was widely welcomed and will continue to be used.'

'The announcement by Simon Stevens of a review of the approach to setting safe staffing levels means that the work to secure safe levels of staffing in Accident and Emergency Departments and in mental health and community settings is likely now to be taken forward as part of NHS England's wider programme of work to help the NHS deal with the challenges it is facing over the next few years. NICE stands ready to support this work using the experience we have gained over the last two years.'

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