Health chiefs closing the staff-to-patient ratio gap

Wigan Infirmary on Wigan Lane
Wigan Infirmary on Wigan Lane

WIGAN’S hospitals are getting nearer to the recommended number of staff per patients.

Following the recent crisis in long A&E waiting times, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published draft guidance suggesting there should be one nurse for every four cubicles but two registered nurses to one patient in cases of major trauma or cardiac arrest.

At present, the ratio of staff nurse to patient at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust emergency care centre is one to five, within the main area of the department.

Over the last year work has begun to support a review of the nurse staffing and aligning this to activity and acuity within the department.

During the winter months it has been agreed to increase the nurse staffing by 10 per cent above normal levels to meet demands and provide safe care for patients.

Pauline Law, deputy director of nursing at the trust, said: “These new NICE guidelines are very welcome and will support the current work we are undertaking to further improve our workforce standards.

“Our nursing workforce model will be based on sound evidence and recommendations. 

“We always strive to ensure that our patients are seen and treated in a timely manner whilst maintaining high standards of care through the delivery of top quality emergency and urgent care. 

“We also welcome these guidelines in supporting our workforce wellbeing in a varied and challenging sphere of nursing.”

NICE also suggests that there should also be a registered children’s nurse on each shift, or at least one A&E nurse with education and training in children’s nursing.

Because demand in emergency care can change rapidly, the guidelines recommend that departments should allow for enough nursing staff to care for higher than the average number of patients who attend the department on a daily basis. They can therefore deal with unexpected peaks in the demand for services and be moved around the department flexibly to respond to changing situations.

NICE added that the service needs to recruit several thousand nurses across the country in A&E departments to meet the guidelines.

Prof Mark Baker of NICE said the organisation was not sure how many hospitals already complied with the draft guidance but suggested the recommendations were in common practice.

He said: “What we are proposing is that managers should plan to staff their departments so that they are only short of staff, on the random variation of demands on A&E, one day a week and that will reduce the dependency on agency staff.

“So even though there will be more staff available, it won’t cost the service more.”