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Nurses able to 'calculate' safe staffing levels for elderly care


A calculator and toolkit to help nurses ensure safe levels of staffing on older people’s wards have been launched by the Royal College of Nursing.

The toolkit comprises a series of forms designed to help nurses perform a review of staffing on their ward, while the calculator provides graphs illustrating how many staff are needed per beds occupied.

The two resources are intended to provide nurses with a “simple, practical way” to check whether staffing on wards where most patients are older people meet the RCN’s recommendations for “safe care”.

They can be used to assess the ratio of nursing staff per patient needed on duty to meet the RCN recommendations, and also the skill mix between registered nurses and healthcare assistants.

The documents build upon a report published by the RCN in September, which acknowledged the “mounting public concern” about standards of elderly care in acute settings.

The report – Safe staffing for older people’s wards – reiterated warnings that staffing and skill mix on wards for older patients were not satisfactory in many places.

It said the current registered nurse to patient ratio on a typical 28 bed ward for older people was 1:9, but this should be 1:7 to provide “basically safe care” and ideally 1:5 for “good quality care”.  

Meanwhile, the total number of staff on duty was usually six, but should be at least eight. This total should exclude the sister or charge nurse.

Writing in the forward of the report, Janet Davies, director of nursing and service delivery at the RCN, said: “The care and treatment of older people is not always valued as it should be and is often under resourced, delivered in poor environments, with inadequately trained staff.

“Our research has uncovered the extent to which nurses on older people’s wards are working to maximum effort yet, still cannot always deliver both the quality and quantity of care they believe is necessary.”

An interim version of the report was published in May, as reported by Nursing Times.



Readers' comments (8)

  • You really don't need a tool kit to 'calculate' how many nurses are required to provide, safe, suitable, patient-centred care, with the correct skill mix. Just walk on to any ward and ASK the nurses working there, or the patients being treated there, on that day. Anyway, even if the tool kit does identify an increased need for staff, the powers that be will dismiss it! More staff equals more money that corporate management will not want to spend; therefore this initiative will not work.

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  • great, another piece of paper, just what nurses need.

    ALL patients, on ALL wards, of ALL ages are entitled to good safe care.

    When is this message going to get through to people?

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  • Our general medical ward has mixed ages but majority are elderly - would that be classed as an elderly ward?
    Can you imagine starting your shift by trying to calculate if you have enough nurses, and then when you haven't who do you ask for more nurses when you already know other wards are stretched to the limit as well.

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  • tinkerbell

    a 'toolkit' will be it be heavy? Will it have a hammer and a screw driver with phillips and flat head adaptions. Will i also have a 'workshop?'. I don't know if i can read much more of this nonsense on ways to be a 'nurse'. When did our english language become so bastardised?

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  • Yes But

    Just spent about 3 minutes glancing at this stuff - it is a data-collection exercise, if anything.

    It doesn't address the issue of 'we claim we need more staff but management does not agree with us'.

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  • Calculator? Bah, nurses these days, can't even use their fingers to work out a simple sum.

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  • Useful but only as a starting point. Need to address the culture (isn't that always the case these days). Also agree that it is not just the elderly who deserve good safe care, it is all people who use our services!

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  • Nurses always seem to have to justify what to them is common sense. U need enough nurses to get the job done; my worry is this is going to be decided by somebody who is not responsible for getting the job done. Toolkits - oh please!!!

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