NHS England asks NICE to suspend safe staffing programme

NHS England has asked NICE not to begin new activity in its safe staffing programme.

NHS England will now take forward the issue of staffing work as part of a wider programme of service improvement. It is looking at alternative approaches to helping NHS providers to achieve the right levels and mix of staff.

The chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, told delegates at the NHS Confederation Annual Conference in Liverpool that they would review how staffing levels were determined across the NHS: "I have asked Jane Cummings, the chief nursing officer, to take a look at whether it would make more sense in respect of the new staffing guidelines that are being proposed for various parts of the health service, to instead remit that to our new urgent and emergency care vanguards and the mental health taskforce and various others – so a different approach to answering those questions." 

NICE has produced guidance on safe staffing in two settings: adult acute wards and maternity. They were part of a programme to develop evidence-based guidelines on safe staffing for the NHS which began in 2013.

The chief executive of NICE, Sir Andrew Dillon said: "Making sure that hospitals and community services are safely staffed remains an important priority for the NHS. The guidance that NICE has already published on safe staffing levels in adult acute wards and in maternity settings was widely welcomed and will continue to be used.

"The announcement by Simon Stevens of a review of the approach to setting safe staffing levels means that the work to secure safe levels of staffing in accident and emergency departments and in mental health and community settings is likely now to be taken forward as part of NHS England’s wider programme of work to help the NHS deal with the challenges it is facing over the next few years. NICE stands ready to support this work using the experience we have gained over the last two years."

Two evidence reviews currently in progress will be completed and will help inform future work on safe staffing. The existing guidance on adult acute wards and maternity settings will remain in place.

Making sure that hospitals and community services are safely staffed remains an important priority for the NHS

Sir Andrew Dillon, NICE chief executive