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A patient and Southampton student nurse smiling at each other in a hospital room, as the nurse takes the patient's blood pressure.

Keeping patients safe in hospital

Published: 21 November 2022

The Francis Inquiry (2013) into the care scandal at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust found that some patients had gone without essential nursing care with fatal consequences. Nurse staffing levels were identified as a contributory factor, and the inquiry recommended that evidence-based national policy and guidance on safe staffing be developed.

Professor Peter Griffiths and Professor Jane Ball, Dr Jeremy Jones, and their team from Southampton found that low nurse staffing was linked to increase risk of death in hospital, with 86% of nurses reporting they left some necessary care undone because of low staffing.

We found that when nurses had to look after more than eight patients on hospital wards there was a substantial increase in the risk of harm. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) commissioned us to review the evidence, and included our ratio of 1:8 as a warning level in their guideline: Safe Staffing for Nursing in Adult Inpatient Wards in Acute Hospitals.

Professor Peter Griffiths