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The University of Southampton
Health Sciences

New study to assess safe staffing levels on hospital wards

Published: 17 May 2016
Reshaping the workforce

The implementation, impact and costs of safe staffing policies for nursing in acute trusts is to be assessed in a new study by the University of Southampton.



Researchers will ask 155 trusts in England to evaluate safe staffing initiatives including their own response rate to the issue.


The study will be led by Jane Ball and Professor Peter Griffiths at the University of Southampton, with Professor Jo Rycroft-Malone and Pro Vice-chancellor and Professor Christopher Burton from Bangor University.


Professor Griffiths comments: “Having enough staff with the right skills is key to patient safety. Our previous research demonstrates a clear link between nurse staffing levels and hospital related death. This new study is to identify the costs and consequences of implementing safe staffing policies, and to explain what has shaped successful implementation.”


The study, funded by the Department of Health Policy Research Programme (PRP), will examine in detail how safe staffing policies have been implemented, how implementation has varied, what changes in staffing levels are observed, and whether observed staffing changes are associated with changes in staff and patient outcomes.


Jane Ball comments: “The NHS needs to know how safe staffing policies have been implemented, how this varies across the country, and the costs and consequences. Understanding what worked where and for who, can help inform future guidance provided to the NHS. In the current financial context, using resources (staffing is the biggest element) wisely to minimise the risks of hospital care and maximise the benefits to patients is essential; understanding the costs and consequences of implementing safe staffing policy is key to this.”


Professor Chris Burton, of Bangor University, adds: “We are delighted to be collaborating with colleagues from the University of Southampton in this important study. It provides us with a unique opportunity to integrate our expertise in implementation science with Southampton’s considerable experience in nursing workforce research. This will enable us to shine new light on the impacts of safer staffing policies in the National Health Service, and learn more about how we can ensure the delivery of safe and effective healthcare for patients.”


The Southampton study is part of a research programme funded by PRP to examine the implementation and impact of policies following the Francis inquiry.





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