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Staffing has improved since Francis, claims Hunt

But poll suggest levels still ‘dangerously’ low

Jo Carlowe

Wednesday, 05 February 2014

On the first anniversary of the publication of the Francis Inquiry report, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will claim the NHS in England has changed for the better.

The speech, due to be delivered later today - the eve of the first anniversary of the Francis Inquiry into the Mid Staff scandal - will see the Health Secretary talk of a ‘real shift in priorities’, including new inspections, more nurses, a stronger voice for patients with ‘compassionate care starting to replace tick-box targets’.

In the wake of the Mid Staffordshire scandal, Mr Hunt will also highlight the fact that more whistleblowers are speaking out, stating that 7,626 calls have been made since last April to a new hotline for whistleblowers working within the NHS. 

Mr Hunt, will point to data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre to show that hospital nurse numbers have risen over the past 12 months. The HSCIC figures show a rise in the number of nurses working in hospitals under the acute, general and elderly category since the Francis report. And the Department of Health says NHS hospitals hired 2,400 more nurses in just 10 months after the Francis report - resulting in over 3,300 more nurses working in NHS wards since May 2010.

However, Labour says overall nursing figures have dropped - noting a fall in nurses employed outside of hospitals.

And this week Nursing Times published the results of a poll of over 500 nurses which found that 57% believed their wards were dangerous due to too few staff.

Commenting on the survey results, Jamie Reed MP, Labour's Shadow Health Minister, said: "These figures make a mockery of everything the Government has tried to claim in the last year. Too many nurses can see things are heading in the wrong direction.

"In the response to Francis, the Government stopped short of requiring action on staffing levels. By presiding over the loss of thousands of NHS nurses, the Government is making care failures more likely, not less.”

The Nursing Times poll further showed that 37% said staffing levels had stayed the same since the Francis inquiry; only 22% reported an improvement.

A third of those questioned said patient safety had got worse over the past 12 months, 48% said there had been ‘no change’ and only 19% thought it had improved. Two-thirds (65%) said they had witnessed ‘poor care’ in their ward or unit - only a slight improvement from a survey carried out last year in which 76% had witnessed poor care.

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