Viewpoint: Professor Berwick's report welcome but why no minimum staffing levels?

Who can disagree with Professor Berwick, once health adviser to Tony Blair and then President Obama, on improving patient safety in the NHS and making patient care paramount and for a culture of support, not blame, to empower staff? Writes BMA deputy chairman Dr Kailash Chand.

Dr Chand: 'The disappointing bit is that he didn’t recommend a minimum safe staffing level for NHS hospital wards.'
Dr Chand: 'The disappointing bit is that he didn’t recommend a minimum safe staffing level for NHS hospital wards.'

There's to be no reform by statute but instead change through leadership, candour and transparency.

The past few months have seen a barrage of criticism of the NHS, Tuesday’s report offers a more balanced and hopeful critique of what needs to change. It is music to my ears when he says without reservation that the NHS is ‘a world-leading example of commitment to health and healthcare as a human right’. I hope the enemies of the NHS who keep undermining and discrediting the NHS take notice.

Government must stop running down NHS

I agree with the concerns in report that ‘fear is toxic’. Blame and fear will get us nowhere. Prof Berwick’s belief that a statutory duty of candour will not work for individuals seems sensible. The government must stop running down our NHS and undermining the confidence of staff and patients. It must start listening and working with all parts of the NHS to reduce harm.

Prof Berwick is absolutely right to highlight that it is counterproductive to use staff survey and attitude data as a performance management tool or to compare organisations. Local trusts or for that matter local GP surgeries have their local needs and relevant solutions.

The disappointing bit is that he didn’t recommend a minimum safe staffing level for NHS hospital wards. We know from both the Francis report and Sir Bruce Keogh’s review of 14 trusts that patients are being put at risk on understaffed wards.

In the last few years we have seen massive cut in nurses and reduction in primary care funding. This need reversing if the government is sincere and genuinely wants to provide safe and quality care to patients.

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