Call for Government to introduce ‘legally enforceable’ nursing staffing levels

A Tory MP and nurse has warned of the “high vacancy rate” as she called on the Government to establish legally enforceable nursing staffing levels in the NHS in England.

Maria Caulfield (pictured) said there was “increasing evidence” that the right number of qualified nurses “can improve patient outcomes in terms of mortality, morbidity and quality of care”, adding that “conversely, insufficient nurses can have potentially life-threatening effects for patients”.

The MP for Lewes, who is a member of the Royal College of Nursing, said nursing was “one of the most under-estimated professions in the country if not the world” and nurses were “more than just a doctor’s assistant”.

There remained, she said, more than 43,000 nursing vacancies in England alone.

She said: “Currently no-one is accountable for nursing numbers in England and that is why we have such a high vacancy rate.”

Her Bill, she said, would establish legally enforceable nursing staffing levels in the NHS in England as was done in Wales in 2016 and in Scotland in June this year, making the Government accountable for nursing levels in England.

She added: “How are we going to address the issue of early retirement when nearly a third of our nurses in practice today are likely to retire in the next 10 years?”

It would also provide training and education for all nurses throughout the length of their career.

Bringing in a legal framework would, she said, clarify the “roles and responsibilities and accountability for the supply, recruitment and retention for nurses in England”.

Her Nurse Staffing Levels Bill would make provision about NHS bodies establishing nurse staffing levels.

The Bill was earmarked for a second reading at a time to be decided, but is unlikely to become law due to a lack of parliamentary time.

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