One in four NHS hospitals is routinely failing to put enough nurses on duty to keep patients safe, a damning report says.
Experts warn that the lessons of the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal have been forgotten amid a desperate staffing crisis across the Health Service.
The 224-page report, funded by the research arm of the NHS, concluded that patients are routinely cared for in wards that are left at a 'high risk' staffing level.
The report also warned that healthcare assistants – who do not have the same training as registered nurses – are being used to shore up the lack of fully qualified staff.
One in four NHS hospitals is routinely failing to put enough nurses on duty to keep patients safe, a damning report says
The 224-page report, funded by the research arm of the NHS, concluded that patients are routinely cared for in wards that are left at a 'high risk' staffing level
The review, conducted by Southampton University, said a 40,000 shortage in registered nurses across England meant hospitals find it impossible to safely staff their wards. This has 'resulted in a gradual dilution of national safe staffing policy'.
The 2013 Francis Inquiry identified inadequate staffing as contributing to the crisis at Mid Staffordshire hospital, in which hundreds of patients are thought to have died as a result of neglect between 2005 and 2009.
The NHS watchdog NICE then recommended that a level of more than eight patients per registered nurse should trigger a review of staffing.
But the Government stopped short of making the recommendation into a mandatory minimum staffing level – leaving it up to individual NHS trusts to set their own staffing requirements.
The new report, which questioned 91 directors of nursing in NHS trusts, said: 'One in four trusts surveyed reported that the number of patients per registered nurse had exceeded 1:8 on more than 65 per cent of shifts in the past 12 months.'
Lead author Professor Jane Ball said: 'The ongoing national shortage of registered nurses, and failure to increase supply sufficiently, has not been addressed. This failure has prevented safe staffing