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Safe staffing tool for A&E launched by RCN

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A workforce planning tool to map staffing levels to dependency in emergency departments was launched yesterday at an evening fringe at the Royal College of Nursing annual congress.

The tool is designed to “help nurses to see if there is a disparity between nursing workload and the nursing workforce presence,” said the RCN’s adviser in emergency care JP Nolan.

Baseline Emergency Staffing Tool or BASE is designed for local level, and allows users to collect and analyse the volume and pattern of nursing workload in EDs and track it against the rostered staffing level.

It will also enable managers to calculate the whole time equivalent workforce and skill mix required to provide nursing care.

The RCN is encouraging members to use the tool to start “articulating conversations” with their managers about staffing need.

Mr Nolan said that the tool will provide a graph that plots workload against workforce.

“We are not suggesting that staff hire the number of nurses required to do the workload – the number at the top,” he said.

“But that they use patient flow, discharge options and patient pathways to help bring the top line down. This gives us a starting point with which to negotiate the workload figure up once you have done everything to manage the workload effectively. It empowers nurses to have the dialogue,” he said.

Janet Youd, chair of the RCN Emergency Care Association, agreed. “The dependency of our patients and what we do for our patients has vastly changed in the past 10 years,” she said.

“This tool provides the evidence for what you may have been asking for foryears and proves that it’s not just the A&E nurses whingeing,” she said. “When I hear about A&E departments who have no sister on a night shift and running the whole department on band 5s at night, that scares me.

“Our patients are sick, we are doing more for them. Thankfully, we have come a long way. But that takes nursing care,” she added.

The tool is available for download at the RCN website. RCN members need their membership number and pin to access it.

It is currently a draft version, but “we feel this is right, but want a period of evaluation to make sure we know it is right”, said Ms Youd.

She recommended that all emergency departments download the tool and collect the data to provide evidence for their staffing needs.

“In the light of Francis – can you really justify the numbers that you’ve got?” she said.

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