About this information

NICE guidelines provide advice on the care and support that should be offered to people who use health and care services.

This information explains the advice from NICE about how hospitals should make sure wards have enough nursing staff to give patients the care they need, at all times of the day and night, every day of the week (NICE guideline SG1). The information only covers nursing staff for inpatient wards that provide care for adults in 'acute hospitals' (most of the hospitals in the NHS). It does not cover wards in community hospitals, day care units, intensive care units, maternity units, accident and emergency departments, or mental health wards.

In this information, 'nursing staff' means registered nurses and healthcare assistants.

Registered nurses have to be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Healthcare assistants are not registered nurses. They work with nurses and other healthcare professionals, helping with care and looking after patients' comfort and wellbeing. The work they do varies, depending on the ward they are working on and the training they have done.

Nursing means the wide range of care that patients need when they are in hospital. It doesn't just cover giving medicines and other treatments, but also things like helping patients eat and drink, or walk to the bathroom or toilet.