A major nursing improvement programme, due to be launched during the spring, is expected to reveal many general and geriatric hospital wards are under-nursed while other areas have too many.
NHS South Central chief nurse Katherine Fenton told Nursing Times that the Safer Care tool will allow senior nurses to regularly compare staff numbers and skill-mix on each ward against best practice.
Its developers hope it will help them improve safety by moving nurses to where they are needed most, and demonstrate if they need more across the hospital.
Ms Fenton said forerunners of the Safer Care tool have often revealed hospitals are overstaffed in one area and understaffed in another, meaning they did not need to increase their overall number of nurses.
Generally, she said, “areas such as intensive care and specialisms have more nurses, and areas such as medical and elderly care have less”.
The tool will be able “to help us put nurses into where we really need them”, she added.
Safer Care is just one part of the Energise for Excellence project, which Ms Fenton has developed with NHS North West chief nurse Jane Cummings. The aim is to improve safety, effectiveness and patient experience by encouraging and inspiring nurses.
It will encourage the wider use of indicators to measure the impact of nursing care and support the “high impact actions”, which the chief nursing officer for England Dame Christine Beasley has identified to improve quality and productivity.
As revealed by Nursing Times last year, the nurse-specific quality indicators in the project are likely to include falls, pressure ulcers and nutrition (news, 4 August 2009, page 1).
The regional directors of nursing want Energise for Excellence to link staff levels with delivering good care, measuring the quality of care and improving patient experience and staff experience.
Ms Fenton said it would empower nurses to improve care by providing support such as tools and networking events. She said: “We are energising people from the front line to want to do better than they are now
“If a nurse wants to do something different she will have the somewhere to go and get started,” she said.