UNISON, the UK’s largest union, warned today that unless the government commits to safe staffing levels in the NHS, patients will not get the top quality safe, compassionate, dignified care they need and deserve.
Both the Francis report into the failures of care at Mid Staffs, and The Keogh Review into high hospital mortality rates, released today, highlight how important the right skills mix and sufficient numbers of staff are to providing top quality care. Having the right staff cover is increasingly important out of hours – at evenings and weekends, said the union.
UNISON is warning that the NHS is in peril due to shrinking budgets as the cost of healthcare rises, and because of unprecedented demands for £20 billion of so-called efficiency savings. Billions more have been wasted on a chaotic, unnecessary top down reorganisation of the NHS – money that could and should have gone towards caring for patients.
Christina McAnea, UNISON head of health, said:
“Every day, thousands of patients receive excellent care from the NHS, but this must be the case every time a patient is taken into hospital. Where care has failed, and patients and their families have suffered, lessons have to be learnt.
“We are pleased that the Keogh Review, as the Francis Report before it, has recognised the relationship between quality care and safe staffing levels. UNISON has been campaigning for safe staffing levels and the right skills mix on wards for many years. This includes in the evenings and at weekends – there is clear evidence that out of hours cover isn’t safe. It is time for the government to start listening and take action by committing to minimum staffing levels. They must also listen to staff and patients who are the best barometer of an organisation.
“Spending pressures mean that health workers are losing their jobs. Financial pressures are building up in the NHS just as the demand for healthcare and its cost is rising – trusts are being asked to make obscene savings. Undoubtedly, this will hit standards of patient care hard, and is the direct consequences of decisions made by the government – not by hardworking NHS staff.”
UNISON is committed to working with those hospitals that have improvement plans to make any changes necessary to boost standards of care. It is also calling for good leadership, which must start early on in people’s NHS careers – those that witness good management are more likely to become good managers, said the union.