Acute NHS care providers need to improve their performance in terms of maintaining an appropriate level of nursing staff, according to new research.
Carried out by the Health Service Journal (HSJ), the analysis suggested that NHS trusts have not made as much progress on their hiring and staffing improvement efforts as official data would suggest.
According to the publication's report, of the 139 acute trusts that reported staffing data for May 2014 to their boards, 105 did not meet their own targets for total nursing hours worked during both day and night in at least one hospital site.
Moreover, 86 per cent failed to meet targets for registered nursing hours worked during the day, while 80 per cent fell below their own guidelines for nursing coverage at night.
Due to recent legal changes, NHS trusts are now compelled to publish monthly staffing figures showing their planned number of nursing hours as compared to the number they actually managed to fill, with a summary appearing on the NHS Choices website.
However, the HSJ report noted that the NHS Choices presentation of the data used aggregate figures for registered and non-registered nursing staff, obscuring how well trusts were performing in terms of registered nurses only.
Its own analysis used the same raw data, but excluded the contribution of healthcare assistants in order to give a more representative picture.
Elaine Inglesby-Burke, executive nurse director and deputy chief executive at the Salford Royal Foundation Trust, said: "I think some trusts have a long way to go in determining what safe staffing is in their organisation and the standards people are being compared against [are not] comparable until everyone is using an evidence-based tool.
"We have started on the journey and leadership attention is being paid to staffing at the frontline, but we can't take our foot off the pedal."
This comes after the need for safe, reliable staffing levels in NHS hospitals was once again underlined in the new fundamental standards for NHS care announced by the government earlier this month.
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