Accident and Emergency units were told to hire more nurses in expert guidance that the government ordered its advisers not to publish.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) concluded that many hospitals were underestimating how many nurses they needed in safety guidance that it was then told not to make public.
In draft guidance published last year, Nice said that many A&E units were setting staff numbers based on the average number of patients they saw, leaving them exposed in busier times.
Nice’s final guidance told hospitals not to draw up rotas based on the average but on a significantly higher level of attendances, it has now emerged. This would mean being short-staffed only 15 per cent of the time rather than up to half the time if using a simple average.
The guidance was not published after NHS England told Nice to suspend its work on staffing levels last summer. It has now transferred responsibility to another regulator, NHS Improvement.
Health bosses faced accusations at the time that they were trying to water down guidance that would have imposed huge extra costs on hospitals. The Department of Health denied that claim, but the finalised advice has only come to light after it was leaked to the Health Service Journal. The Royal College of Emergency Medicine said last year that silencing Nice would harm patient care by allowing unsafe staffing levels to continue unchallenged.
Nice’s guidance also called for strict minimum staffing ratios, saying that there should never be fewer than two nurses for each major trauma patient.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “A comprehensive programme of work on safe staffing is being led by NHS Improvement and full guidance will be published later this year.”
Perhaps the question we should be asking is what is it about our political system that provides too few professionally trained doctors and nurses from our own students, when we have so many applicants? In Medicine 2:11 are accepted, but all have been recommended to apply by careers officers. What are the figures for nurses?
Deliberate rationing by undercapacity and poaching from other countries is unethical. In nursing and Medicine.