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Health Sciences

Professor Jane E Ball RGN, BSc (Hons) PhD

Professor of Nursing Workforce Policy

Professor Jane E Ball's photo

Jane has been researching nurse staffing and workforce policy since 1990. A major interest is nurse staffing levels and the interface between research evidence and policy development.

Researching nursing workforce and the delivery of fundamental care

She started her nursing career with a nursing degree from University of Surrey. Several years later she took a up a research position in the psychology department at Surrey before joining the research team at the Institute of Employment Studies in Brighton, to research nursing workforce – role boundaries, roistering, staffing levels & skill-mix, and the motivation and morale of health service employees.

Much of her work has involved large-scale surveys of nurses’ employment and deployment, to explore the relationship between staffing and outcomes. In 1997 she co-authored the WHO’s guide to staffing and skill-mix, and whilst working as a Policy Adviser at the RCN in 2010 wrote the UK guidance on ‘Safe Nurse Staffing’. After working as Deputy Director of the National Nursing Research Unit, at King’s College London she moved to University of Southampton in 2014. She continues to research nurse staffing and skill-mix issues, and the impact on the delivery of fundamental care and patient outcomes. Working as part of the NIHR CLAHRC Wessex, she led work to determine what staff, patients and the public see as the research priorities to improve fundamental care on hospital wards. The results of a formal priority setting exercise placed nurse staffing high on the list of priorities.

Working as part of the Health Workforce Research Group, she is contributing to several studies which explore the impact of variation in nurse staffing levels in more depth (such as the ‘Missed Care Study’, and the ‘SNCT study’).

With funding from the Department of Health’s Policy Research Programme, she is currently leading a two-year study of the implementation of safe staffing policies in England, following the Francis Inquiry.

Research interests

  • Nursing workforce
  • Fundamental care
  • Recruitment & retention
  • Working patterns & shift lengths
  • Staffing levels & skill-mix
  • Community nurse staffing
  • Motivation & morale
  • Workforce planning and workload assessment
  • Magnet hospitals
  • Nursing quality metrics
  • Patient outcomes
  • Staff attitude surveys
  • Ward managers role
  • Culture of care

Research group

Health Workforce & Systems

Research theme

Health Work


Research project(s)

Magnet4Europe: Improving Mental Health & Wellbeing of Health Professionals

The University of Southampton is involved in the largest ever project to improve hospital work environments, with an award of 4 million Euros from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme. The grant will support the international partnership with some of the world’s leading universities and is being led by Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium and the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

Improving Fundamental Care on Hospital Wards

This is a feasibility study for an intervention aiming to make fundamental care in acute hospitals more person-centred. It pairs the Creating Learning Environments for Compassionate Care (CLECC) intervention with an adapted, co-produced version of the ‘TellUs’ card to support personalisation of fundamental care in hospital.

Implementation, impact and costs of policies for safe staffing in acute trusts

Through a survey and case studies, this study will evaluate the extent to which safe staffing policies following the Francis Inquiry have been implemented, how that varies from place to place, the factors that have shaped implementation, and describe the costs & consequences of implementation.

Identifying nurse-staffing requirements using the Safer Nursing Care Tool. Modelling the costs and consequences of real world application to address variation in patient need on hospital wards

The study examines how patients' need for nursing care, varies from day to day and explores how well staffing matches need when using the ‘Safer Nursing Care Tool’. We also simulate the costs and consequences of different ways of deploying nurses to meet varying need.

Nurse staffing levels, missed vital signs observations and mortality in hospital wards: modelling the consequences and costs of variations in nurse staffing and skill mix

This retrospective observational study uses routinely collected data on ward and shift level nurse staffing, vital signs observations and patient outcomes in 32 general wards in order to explore the relationship between nurse staffing levels and mortality in hospital.

RN4CAST Nurse Forecasting in Europe

This study, undertaken in collaboration with a large international consortium seeks to explore how the size and composition of the registered nursing workforce affects the quality of care in hospitals.

Consequences, costs and cost-effectiveness of different workforce configurations in English acute hospitals: a longitudinal retrospective study using routinely collected data

This study seeks to understand how variation in the size and make-up of care teams on hospital wards in England influences patient outcomes and the costs of care.

Nurse staffing & quality of care in UK general practice

Framework for Safe Nurse Staffing and Skill Mix in General and Specialist Medical and Surgical Care Settings in Ireland - evaluation

Determining safe and appropriate nurse staffing levels can be challenging and, for many years, decisions on nurse staffing in the Irish healthcare system were based on historical need and legacy issues rather than using a systematic, evidence based approach. This study evaluates the implementation of an evidence based Framework.

  • Coordinate research studies in the Health Workforce Research group.
  • Editor of the ‘Evidence Brief’
  • Adviser to the NHS Improvement Safe & Sustainable Staffing Group (Community Nursing)


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PhD Supervision 

Chiara Dall’Ora - Shift characteristics, job performance, & missed care

Jane Lawless - Determining safe & effective nurse staffing


Professor Jane E Ball
Health Sciences, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton SO17 1BJ
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