Feb 20

Tips to help you to decide safe staffing levels for your service

Posted: 24 February 2020

“Safe staffing is a fundamental part of getting care and support right for individuals. Across your organisation, it’s important that you have the quantity of skilled staff to meet the needs of your service. It’s also essential that these staff have the right skills to respond to whatever they need to, on a day-to-day basis.”

Anita Astle, Managing Director, Wren Hall Nursing Home

Safe staffing levels ensure that your service has enough staff, who have the right values and skills, to deliver high-quality care and support.

There’s no one solution to deciding safe staffing levels – it depends on your service and the people that you support – and it might change over time. As a registered manager, it’s your responsibility to identify how many staff your service needs and ensure that you plan your staffing to maintain this. This article shares advice and recommendations from our ‘Guide to safe staffing’ and includes best practice examples from services rated ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

You need to use an effective system and/or process, such as a dependency tool, when deciding how many staff your service needs. It should consider the needs and wishes of the people that you support, as well as other factors such as time for reporting, training and travel.

Here are some of the things to consider.

  • Use realistic formulas that are based on the needs and wishes of the people that you support, and that go beyond ‘care tasks’ to include, for example, meaningful activities or access to the local community.
  • Give staff enough time to do everything that’s involved in their role, including filling in documents, doing handovers, working with healthcare professionals, taking part in supervisions and doing learning and development. 
  • Consider environmental issues that might impact on staffing levels, for example the layout of the care home or the location of people who access homecare.
  • Consider factors above and beyond work-time regulations that might impact staff’s ability to deliver safe care and support, for example long shifts might cause fatigue.
  • If you regularly use new or inexperienced care workers or bank staff, think about what impact this has on experienced staff’s productivity.
  • Be realistic about the impact that staff turnover, annual and special leave, sickness, supervisions and training will have on staffing levels. Include time for these and base levels on real recent data rather than overly optimistic targets.

Dependency tools can help you to decide how many staff your service needs. You can use them to collate information about the needs and wishes of the people that you support, how many hours/staff you need and log other requirements such as time for administration, record keeping and training.

This can help you to make informed decisions about how many staff your service needs to maintain safe staffing levels. It also provides evidence for your CQC inspection about how and why you’ve decided these levels.

“Supporting people with all their needs, including spending one-to-one time with people, socializing, going out and attending appointments was incorporated into the dependency tool used to calculate and review staffing levels.”

CQC inspector, residential care home rated ‘outstanding’ for ‘safe’

Learn from Voyage Care

Voyage Care uses a care funding calculator to determine their staffing levels and ensures that it includes time for staff to build relationships with the people that they support.

They told us: “Each person that we support is allocated care hours when they arrive in the service to ensure that their needs are being met. Our care manager does an assessment to calculate this time as part of the transition period, and we regularly review this.

"We use a care funding calculator to determine how many hours of care is needed on a 1:1 basis, throughout the day and night, and why these hours are needed. When we schedule our rotas, we also build in enough time for staff to build relationships with people. This ensures that our staffing levels meet the needs of the people we support and are safe for 24 hours a day.

"Our care manager does regular reviews to ensure that this continues. We also hold monthly ‘keyworker’ meetings with individuals and team meetings where we can discuss staffing levels and identify areas for improvement.”

Find out more

These tips and recommendations are taken from our ‘Guide to safe staffing’ which explores what the CQC looks for in terms of safe staffing levels and gives you advice about how to meet these regulations.

Download the free online guide here.

This article has been written as part of our campaign to support adult social care employers with workforce planning – keep up-to-date with the campaign by following #CareWorkforcePlanning on Twitter.