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Medical and Patient Leaders Urge Political Parties to Commit to Minimum Staffing Levels

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06 Feb 2015

'Where next?' Medical and Patient Leaders Urge Political Parties to Commit to Minimum Staffing Levels to prevent further serious failings in care

"We would not expect passengers to accept a higher risk of their flight crashing in the evenings or at weekends due to reduced staffing or inexperience, so why should patients accept this for their NHS

Writing in an editorial published today (Friday 6 February 2015), the President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE), Prof Derek Bell, and the Chair of the RCPE Lay Advisory Group (and former Chief Nursing Officer for Scotland), Anne Jarvie, have urged all political parties in Scotland and the rest of the UK to urgently commit to developing and implementing minimum staffing levels in the NHS as an important foundation to prevent further serious failings in care.

The editorial reviews the reports of 10 major Inquiries and Reviews into serious failings in care in the UK since 2000, including Mid Staffordshire, Bristol, Lanarkshire and the Vale of Leven. The authors believe that patients, NHS staff and the wider public may be forgiven for asking “where next?” and that recent improvements in inspection alone will not be sufficient to prevent a recurrence of such incidents.  They advocate the need for the NHS at all levels to actively value staff and to support them in their day to day roles in delivering health care. The editorial further explores why the NHS has not learned lessons from the past, the loss of compassion, the erosion of professionalism, the increasing industrialisation and politicisation of the NHS and evidence that where NHS staff are engaged, a range of patient outcomes (including death rates) are improved. The editorial is published in The Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

Different aspects of the authors’ proposals have been welcomed by leading patient, health and legal figures including Dr Jean Turner (former Executive Director, Scotland’s Patients’ Association), Nigel Edwards (Chief Executive, the Nuffield Trust), the Rt Hon Lord MacLean (Chair of the Vale of Leven Hospital Inquiry) and Mr Peter Lees (Chief Executive & Medical Director, Faculty of Medical Leadership & Management).


The authors of the editorial make 6 recommendations (one each aimed at policymakers, patients, professionals, managers, NHS Boards and Trusts, and the RCPE itself) –

  • All political parties should commit to developing and implementing minimum staffing levels for all professions within hospital settings, based upon best evidence, as a policy priority
  • Building on the unprecedented level of civic engagement experienced during the recent referendum in Scotland, we would encourage patients throughout the UK to become more actively involved in their care and decisions regarding the delivery of services (by becoming more involved in managing their health, joining a local patient group, raising concerns or contacting your local MP/MSP/AM to advocate and support improvements within the NHS)
  • Doctors, nurses and other health professionals should be reminded of their value to the NHS and of their responsibility to provide the highest quality of care to patients, to continually seek to improve service delivery, to act professionally at all times and to report concerns regarding poor quality care; where they do not do so, they should be held accountable
  • Managers should be encouraged to support professionals in their clinical decision-making, in developing the leadership skills of those responsible for leading teams, in delivering the highest quality care and in reporting concerns; they should also work within their Boards and Trusts to foster a supportive environment in which staff are seen as valued individuals and in which innovation is encouraged
  • All Boards and Trusts should be encouraged to develop, publish and promote policies aimed at engaging staff, understanding and responding to professional concerns and valuing staff
  • Recognising its leadership role and responsibilities in improving standards, the College should continue to advocate evidence-based health policy and to drive and encourage collaborative working for the benefit of patients, while supporting physicians throughout their careers

Join the discussion about preventing serious failings in care on social media by using #preventingwherenext

For further information visit the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh website.

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