Safe staffing (again)

safe staffingJust over a year ago I posted a short piece on this site on safe staffing, particularly noting the work of Shaun Lintern and John Baker in alerting people to the importance of this in the mental health nursing context. Since then, the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016 has passed into law, and the Welsh Government has opened this consultation on its draft statutory guidance for Local Health Boards and NHS Trusts. My colleague Aled Jones is coordinating a School of Healthcare Sciences response.

Here in Wales, the duty to calculate nurse staffing levels is currently limited to adult acute medical and surgical inpatient wards. In each NHS organisation with responsibilities in these fields, the Government’s draft document refers to the appointment of a ‘designated person’ with the job of calculating nurse staffing levels using three elements:

  • professional judgement;
  • use of an evidence-based workforce planning tool; and
  • a consideration of the extent to which patients’ wellbeing is sensitive to nursing care.

Making these calculations, I can only imagine, will be a mighty challenging task requiring in-depth understanding of individual wards, the characteristics of patients admitted, and use of a tool which has (so far as I understand it) yet to be finalised.

Meanwhile, via John Baker I learn today of this new publication by NHS Improvement on safe, sustainable and productive staffing in mental health services. This is not about safe nursing staffing, but is about interprofessional staffing in specialist mental health services. Here I read of expectations around right staff, right skills and right place, right time and also spot a rapid review of the relevant literature. This begins with the understated observation that, ‘the issue of safe and sustainable staffing in mental health is complex and research is lacking’. I should say so. The time is ripe, I think, for some serious independent studies in this area.

 

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