The Safe Staffing Alliance (SSA) has warned that NHS wards regularly have unsafe nursing staff levels.

The SSA, which was formed last year and includes the Royal College of Nursing, the Patients Association and Unison, believes that where a registered nurse looks after more than eight patients on a ward, this is 'considered to be unsafe and putting patients at risk'. It argues that eight patients per registered nurse 'is not a recommended mínimum' and that safe nursing levels have been ignored for too long. For nurses to provide compassionate care which treats patients with dignity and respect, higher levels will be needed and these should be determined by every healthcare provider.

Dr Peter Carter, General Secretary of The Royal College of Nursing, commented: “What happened at Mid Staffordshire was a tragedy and for nurses to say they predict another scandal is very worrying indeed…The issues of unsafe staffing levels, unregulated healthcare assistants, and a financially driven culture must be addressed.”

Dr Dan Poulter, the Government’s Health Minister, said that it was 'for hospitals themselves to decide how many nurses they employ, and they are best placed to do this'. Action could be taken by the new chief inspector of hospitals if patient care was found to be compromised by lack of staffing on wards.

The Sunday Telegraph noted that the SSA’s warning comes at the same time as a poll of 2,000 nurses, published by the Sunday Mirror and the Nursing Standard Journal, showed that more than 75% believe that there could be a repeat of the Mid Staffordshire scandal with more than 40% saying that there were insufficient staff on their last shift to provide a safe level of care.