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.