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Evidence Briefs

Evidence-briefs: short summaries and overviews of research addressing the key questions in Workforce and Health Systems

Staffing levels have been implicated in cases of adverse maternity events, near misses and sub-optimal outcomes such as unwell new-borns or still births. Care that is missed due to high workload can affect the detection of deterioration in mothers and babies, and delay appropriate management. A national shortage of midwives has resulted in increased reliance on support workers but the possible effect of skill-mix changes on outcomes has not been assessed. 

This Evidence Brief describes a systematic scoping review to explore evidence on the association between inpatient midwifery staffing levels, skill mix and outcomes for mothers and babies. Researchers at the University of Southampton aimed to understand the amount and strength of the available evidence, the direction of relationships established, and to highlight gaps for future research. (download)

Automated planning using Operational Research methods can save both planning and travelling time. Researchers at the Universities of Southampton and Exeter are working to close the gap between these methods and the practicalities of home care planning. This Evidence Brief draws attention to the difficulty of finding the best route and schedule.

Read our latest Evidence Brief

Burnout in Nursing: what have we learnt and what do we still need to know? 

Recent health workforce crises, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, have meant that burnout has often become a ‘buzzword’ to represent stress, extreme tiredness, and a willingness to quit one’s job. Several studies in nursing focus on burnout as an indicator of adverse work environments or staff characteristics. Nonetheless, what burnout is - what aspects contribute to its development and what the effect is for nurses, healthcare organisations, or their patients - is often overlooked. 

This evidence brief describes a review, undertaken by researchers at the University of Southampton, of the research examining relationships between burnout and work-related variables. We sought to determine what is known (and not known) about the causes and consequences of burnout in nursing, and whether these relationships confirm or dispute Maslach’s theory of burnout. (Download)


 Many studies of registered nurse staffing in hospitals have shown an association between higher levels and better patient outcomes and care quality. Systems for determining the number of nursing staff needed on wards exist in abundance. However, research (Download)

Urgent care typically describes healthcare for non-life threatening conditions requiring prompt attention (‘same day’ or within 24 hours). In England, urgent care services have proliferated partly to divert people from attending overcrowded emergency departments but also to address policy concerns of patient choice and improved access to care. (Download)

Job-related stress and burnout are prevalent amongst healthcare staff; in particular, nurses in the UK have one of the highest levels of burnout in any country in Europe. Tackling this problem is a high priority in the UK and in other countries where shortages of healthcare professionals are affecting healthcare delivery.  

‘Magnet’ hospitals are reputed to attract and retain staff, and to achieve better outcomes for patients. But what do we know about whether Magnet hospitals are ‘better’ places for staff to work, and whether they improve staff wellbeing? (Download)

The Francis inquiries in 2010 and 2013 highlighted nurse staffing as a patient safety factor contributing to the care failings identified at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust. The reports and government response led to the development of national ‘safe staffing’ policy. (Download)