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Nurse to Patient Ratio

Volume 542: debated on Tuesday 27 March 2012

Guidance on staff ratios and the proportion of registered and unregistered staff can play a useful part in supporting local decisions about setting safe and sustainable staffing levels. Both the Royal College of Nursing and the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement have produced such guidance. We have no plans to impose centrally determined ratios, as in our view that would undermine professional judgment.

Is the Minister aware that the RCN says that nurses are overstretched, with too much reliance on cheaper, unqualified assistance? What impact does he think that will have on care for the elderly?

First, let me say that we greatly welcome the survey the RCN published last week, and the work it has done for many years to highlight ratios such as the ratio of nurses to beds. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that the ratio has improved under this Government. We are working with the RCN and others to identify the processes and paperwork within the NHS that occupy nurses’ time and take them away from the bedside, which is the priority.

When I last asked the Minister from the Dispatch Box about the loss of 3,500 nursing posts, he told the House that that was “factually incorrect”. He was right, and I apologise: the actual figure, published last week, is 4,096. In what will surely be one of the Secretary of State’s final outings in his current post, before he is reshuffled to where he can do no further harm, will he tell the House how many of those nursing posts would have been secured by the £500 million spending cut he agreed with the Treasury in last week’s Budget?