National Institute for Health Research. Staffing on wards: Making decisions about healthcare staffing, improving effectiveness and supporting staff to care well. 2019. (accessed 28 March 2019)

Staffing is not just a numbers game

11 April 2019
Volume 28 · Issue 7


Sam Foster, Chief Nurse, Oxford University Hospitals, considers a newly published review of the evidence and areas for further reflection when it comes to questions about staff on the wards

I was so pleased to see the launch in March of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) themed review on ward staffing. I was involved in this as a member of the expert group. We aimed to provide a narrative by considering the most significant studies, along with emerging research; we also sought to identify the unanswered questions that will need further research. The document is a superb reference text that can be used from ward to board and is one that I have shared with our ward leaders, colleagues in human resources, and all board colleagues to support our decision making. It will enable a strengthened mutual understanding of the current evidence, which will generate more informed debate and collective ownership of our decisions.

The background context to the review reminds readers that over 40% of NHS spending is on nurses, midwives and support workers. The current national position, with more than 40 000 nurse vacancies, requires us to consider new roles to care for a changing population—this is the main area where further work is required. Changes in skill mix, the impact of digital records and the contribution of carers and volunteers are also areas of interest for future research.

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