NHS England has still not worked out how to present trusts’ nurse staffing data on NHS Choices, less than two weeks before it is due to publish the information for the first time.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced all trusts would have to collect and publish ward level staffing data, as part of the government’s response to the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry.
This data is being collected by NHS England and collated into a single indicator to be released on the NHS Choices website.
Guidance from NHS England originally suggested that when the data was put online, trusts would receive a red, amber or green rating for safe staffing, based on the fill rate of shifts over a month.
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In line with NHS Choices’ standard presentation, trusts with the best fill rates would receive a green tick, while those with the worst would have a red exclamation mark.
However, HSJ’s sister title Nursing Times has learned that trusts will now not be rated in this way when the data is published for the first time on 24 June.
This is understood to be due to concerns about how comparable the data would be, and the potential for a red, amber or green rating to penalise trusts that set higher staffing levels.
Updated information on the publication plans - issued by NHS England last week - said the “ratings/parameters have not yet been set”.
It said: “A number of options are being explored.
“As soon as an option is selected we will inform you. This will be prior to publication.”
The drive to make every NHS provider publish ward level staffing data was inspired by work at Salford Royal Foundation Trust.
The trust’s executive nurse director and deputy chief executive Elaine Inglesby-Burke said uploading the data to NHS Choices was “absolutely the right thing to do”.
However, she warned that organisations with high staffing standards could potentially have worse fill rates and yet more staff caring for patients than those with lower staffing standards.
“Unless we identify a national standard, I don’t know how you can compare across organisations,” she said.
Trusts were due to submit their May data to NHS England by Tuesday, ready for publication later this month.
Many trusts are reported to have worked “flat out” to meet the deadlines, with a national shortage of nurses adding to the difficulty filling shifts.
A spokesman for NHS England confirmed work was ongoing to refine how the data will be presented on 24 June to ensure the information was “easy to understand and meaningful” for the public.