Senior nurses across the NHS have been invited to attend a first-of-its-kind training programme to learn about safe and effective workforce planning.
The fellowship scheme run by NHS Improvement in partnership with the Shelford Group Chief Nurses will involve education on the Safer Nursing Care Tool (SNCT).
“At a time when there are significant pressures on nurses, effective workforce planning is more important than ever”
Organisers have written to all chief nurses giving them the chance to sponsor a senior nurse to attend the programme next year. The first cohort will start on February 11 and the second on April 29.
It comes after registered nurse vacancies across the NHS in England increased to more than 41,000 in the first quarter of 2018-19.
This month, NHS Improvement launched a new set of workforce guidelines, which include a key recommendation for using evidence-based tools and methodologies.
All providers will be assessed on their compliance with these new guidelines from April 2019.
The invitation letter sent to chief nurses and seen by Nursing Times praised the SNCT as “essentially the only evidence-based tool currently used in the NHS” for staffing.
It added: “Its development has been led by a core group of highly experienced and professional leaders alongside leading academics.
“The team leading the development of this tool, and its subsequent operationalisation in the NHS is small and the increasing use of these tools requires further development of the expertise and skills in the wider NHS.
“We recognise that there is a variation in the knowledge of evidence-based decision support tools such as the SNCT as well as a lack of consistency in the correct implementation and application of these tools across England.”
Open to 24 senior nurses, the year-long part-time course will be accredited by a UK university and will lead to a postgraduate certificate or diploma with the option to progress to masters level.
The programme could be extended to more nurses if it proves popular.
Ruth May, executive director of nursing at NHS Improvement, said: “At a time when there are significant pressures on nurses, effective workforce planning is more important than ever, both for the profession and for patients.
“This training programme will help senior nurses develop deeper knowledge about safe staffing systems, along with the skills to apply this knowledge and expertise on the frontline. This will benefit patients and ensure widespread best practice within the wider NHS.
“The fellows programme is the first of its kind in England and we expect it to be a fantastic development opportunity for nurses.”
Janice Sigsworth, chief nurse at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and chair of Shelford Group Chief Nurses, said the SNCT was an “excellent example of the capacity for innovation within the NHS”.
She added: “The fellows programme enables us to equip nurses across England with this knowledge, building a team of experts that will sustain this best practice, now and into the future, and embed it where it is needed most within the system.”
Modules that will be included in the course include “workload measurement and staffing systems”, “updating existing and developing new evidence-based tools” and “workforce assurance and governance”.