A safe staffing tool officially endorsed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence will help nurses make a strong case for extra funding and jobs, according to one of its creators.
The Safer Care Nursing Tool gained the stamp of approval from NICE last week to be used alongside its new guidelines for safe staffing in adult inpatient wards, which were launched in July.
The tool recommends appropriate staffing levels based on patients’ sickness and dependency. As well as helping nursing managers set nursing staff establishments, it involves monitoring nurse sensitive indicators – such as infections rates, complaints, pressure ulcers and falls – to check staffing is sufficient to ensure the best care.
“It helps make the case for more funds where more nurses are needed”
The tool was created more than 10 years ago by Professor Hilary Chapman, chief nurse at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust, and Professor Katherine Fenton, chief nurse at University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust.
The tool was devised using evidence from more than 1,000 top performing wards and data from thousands of episodes of patient care. It went on to be adopted by the Shelford Group of 10 leading teaching hospitals and is already used by many other acute trusts.
Professor Fenton told Nursing Times she was “over the moon” the tool had now been endorsed by NICE and hoped this would encourage more organisations to use it. She said it was a powerful resource to back up requests for more nurses on wards, but also to ensure trusts with tight budgets were making the best use of qualified staff.
“To me, as a chief nurse, [it means] I have got an evidence-based methodology that tells me what staffing I need on each ward based on the acuity and dependency of patients,” she said.
“It means the rest of the executive team are more likely to agree with what I am saying because I’m not coming from an emotional perspective, I’m coming from an evidence-based factual perspective,” she told Nursing Times.
“In my own organisation I can explain exactly how it works and can then say that whatever it comes up with, we need to fund that for each ward,” she said. “If the ward needs less, then fine, but if we need more, then we need to put the money in.
“It helps make the case for more funds where more nurses are needed, but also helps us make good decisions if somewhere has got too many” added Professor Fenton.
“National recognition of the importance of safe and robust staffing is a great step forward”
She said the tool was also valued by frontline nurses who had found previous methods of working out staffing levels “hugely labour intensive”.
“They like using this because it is simple and easy,” she said. “They see the evidence after they have run the data collection and see the staffing levels change.”
However, she stressed the tool did not over-ride nurses’ professional judgement and the results were only valid if the tool was used correctly following a series of “red rules”.
Professor Chapman added: “National recognition of the importance of safe and robust staffing is a great step forward.”