The Safer Nursing Care Tool is a system designed to guide decisions about nurse staffing requirements on hospital wards, in particular the number of nurses to employ (establishment). It is widely used in English hospitals but there is a lack of evidence about how effective and cost-effective nurse staffing tools are at providing the staffing levels needed for safe and quality patient care.
The objective of this study, published in Health Services and Delivery Research, was to determine whether or not the Safer Nursing Care Tool corresponds to professional judgement, to assess a range of options for using the Safer Nursing Care Tool and to model the costs and consequences of various ward staffing policies based on Safer Nursing Care Tool acuity/dependency measure.
Authors conclude that employing more permanent staff than recommended by the Safer Nursing Care Tool guidelines, meeting demand most days, could be cost-effective. Apparent cost savings from ‘flexible (low)’ establishments are achieved largely by below-adequate staffing. Cost savings are eroded under the conditions of high temporary staff availability that are required to make such policies function.