Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Exclusive: Safe staffing app to 'revolutionise' NHS nursing rotas

  • 10 Comments

A mobile “app” is set to revolutionise the collection of safe staffing data by drastically reducing the time taken to record and analyse information, according to nurses behind its development.

They say it will cut paperwork and help ensure data used to set staffing levels is up to date, reliable and easier to analyse. Their vision is for nurses to use the technology every day to provide real-time information to inform staffing rotas.

The official Safer Nursing Care Tool app will be available to all trusts free of charge from April this year, Nursing Times can reveal. The innovation has the backing of the Shelford Group of leading NHS trusts, NHS England and the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

“People have said it is fantastic and something they can do by the bedside alongside other things”

Ann Casey

The app, designed to run on iPads, is based on the existing Safer Nursing Care Tool – itself developed by senior NHS nurses and the only such tool currently approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

The concept was the brainchild of Ann Casey, assistant chief nurse at University College Hospitals London Foundation Trust, who came up with the idea after joining the trust in November 2012.

“When I arrived the Safer Nursing Care Tool was in use, but what I quickly found was that the data was really ad-hoc – there wasn’t a good, consistent flow of data and the message from the floor was ‘when we get busy, this is not a priority’,” she told Nursing Times.

She worked with IT and information experts to develop the app, which allows information about acuity and dependency to be swiftly recorded at patients’ bedsides at the touch of a screen.

As part of a pilot last year, the app was tested by nurses at University College Hospitals and two other trusts – South Devon Healthcare Foundation Trust and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn Foundation Trusts.

University College London Hospital

Ann Casey has been leading work on the Safer Nursing Care Tool app

Ms Casey said the response from frontline nursing teams had been “overwhelmingly positive”, with nurses reporting it was simple and quick to use.

For example, one trust had been using a paper-based process to gather staffing data, which was taking up to an hour. But that was reduced to between five and 10 minutes with the app.

“People have said it is fantastic and something they can do by the bedside alongside other things,” said Ms Casey. “So a sister who is going on her round making sure all the patients are okay can do this at the same time.

“It’s very important to get the reporting of our staffing right, yet we’ve got finite resources, so we have to make sure we are using nurses absolutely appropriately,” she told Nursing Times.

At the moment, the app is intended to help trusts gather the data they need to set nursing establishments, which would usually be done at least twice a year over a four-week period using the Safer Nursing Care Tool.

The fact the data is so easy to collect could encourage trusts to do it more often to give a more accurate overall picture, suggested Ms Casey.

“We haven’t changed our overall organisational policy for setting our annual establishment – it is still based on the same principles – but this does provide quicker feedback to the sisters about what the data said about their ward for the month,” she said.

“You can start to identify trends, such as Mondays and Thursdays are real high acuity days on this ward, so we need to start tailoring our staffing and look at what we are planning for our rotas,” she added.

“It reduces the time nurses spend collecting data and makes much more efficient use of their time”

Pauline Milne

The technology means nurses no longer have to input data into a spreadsheet and then wait for someone else to analyse it. The app can remind staff when data is due and can calculate compliance with set staffing levels and flag up potential issues.

She said the hope was that such technology could enable the collection of real-time staffing data in the near future.

“Our vision is that the Safer Nursing Care Tool is something we can do daily so we can respond daily to what our staffing requirements are,” she said.

The app’s development was funded by NHS England as part of its Compassion in Practice nursing strategy.

Pauline Milne, head of clinical workforce development and planning for Health Education East of England, has been leading work on safe staffing under the strategy’s Action Area Five.

She said the app also fed into efforts to reduce bureaucracy and increase the time nurses spent delivering direct care.

“The biggest advantage is that it reduces the time nurses spend collecting data and makes much more efficient use of their time,” she told Nursing Times.

The design of the app meant it could easily be adapted for different types of wards, she added.

  • 10 Comments

Readers' comments (10)

  • This looks very useful - have you had any opportunity to trail the tool in Nursing homes? Another area where staffing and patient dependency are not always clear cut.

    You say the tool will be available free to all NHS Trusts, if applicable how can private sector providers access this?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • what a farce its took them this long to decide to invent a machine to tell them what the nurses and hca's have been dealing with for the past seven years, 1 nurse and 1 hca for 16 patients is not enough staff per patient der!!!!!!!!give that woman a fat bonus

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Is there going to be a commitment from Health Boards to provide staff with iPads to run this app across the service?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Basically it sounds exactly the same as the system we used years ago. Patient Care Hours (PCH) needed, against Nurse Care Hours (NCH) available, but will take less time. I bet the results get exactly the same response as they did when, as a ward sister, I phoned management to tell them I was 3/4/5 nurses short on that shift....'Sorry we can't send anyone - every ward is the same'.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I know of Senior nurses doing rounds in a very big hospital to ascertain the staffing and empty beds which they record on paper. This is already available on the computer but management feels the SN actually need to assess for them selves. After all the data is only as accurate (or not) as the typist wants to be.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous | 5-Mar-2015 4:36 pm

    Basically it sounds exactly the same as the system we used years ago. Patient Care Hours (PCH) needed, against Nurse Care Hours (NCH) available, but will take less time. I bet the results get exactly the same response as they did when, as a ward sister, I phoned management to tell them I was 3/4/5 nurses short on that shift....'Sorry we can't send anyone - every ward is the same'.

    You are so right.

    This is another gimmick, like "Hello my name is" to detract from what continues to be the truth, the NHS is short staffed and wastes too much money on non essentials.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Heaven help us. Another opportunity for nurses to get their noses stuck into gadgets. And if the staff aren't available, what difference will it make? I wonder how much will be spent on this. Not knocking the principle of passing information along quickly, and certainly not saying 'why should we change what we've always done?', but we do seem to have a bit of a love affair with technology which in the end, doesn't make any difference to the results.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • iPad? Seriously? iPad?

    There is money to burn on iPads is there?

    When pretty much all NHS IT is Windows based and several years out of date?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • And how does this tie in with the introduction in many parts of the country of e-rostering?

    Data on staffing levels is instantly available on those systems, so why re-invent the wheel?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • does this app just capture nursing numbers and skill mix ? does it capture direct care time with patients in both wards and community settings ?If purely self reported how as is this validated and assessed ?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.