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Nov 18

Safe staffing levels: how many staff do you need?

Posted: 15 November 2018

Project Manager, Rob Hargreaves, talks about safe staffing levels and how our new online guide can help you decide how many staff you need to meet the needs of your service, no matter what the circumstances.

‘How many staff do I need?’

That’s the million dollar question for many employers and unfortunately no single answer, especially as there aren’t any mandatory national standards for staffing levels in adult social care.

However, employers should know that the CQC guidance says:

“Providers should have a systematic approach to determine the number of staff and range of skills required in order to meet the needs of people using the service and keep them safe at all times. The approach they use must reflect current legislation and guidance where it is available.”

The amount of staff you need depends on a number of things relating to your service and the people you support. In practice, this means that you’re responsible for deciding how many staff you need and recruiting enough staff to meet this.

If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve put together a list of things to consider based on what good out outstanding rated services do to manage their staffing levels.  

When you’re deciding how many staff you need, think about:

  • the needs and wishes of the people you support – use realistic formulas to do this that go beyond ‘care tasks’ and include things such as time to do meaningful activities, access the community and attend appointments
  • what staff need to do that’s outside of directly delivering care and support – for example time to fill in care plans, complete handovers, talk to relatives, do training and have regular supervisions 
  • environmental impacts – such as the layout of the care home or location of people who access community-based care
  • factors beyond work time regulations that impact your staff’s ability to deliver safe care and support – for example long shifts can cause fatigue
  • times when you might need more staff such as busy times of the day, when someone is receiving end of life care or when someone’s care needs increase
  • the impact of bank, voluntary or agency staff on more experienced workers productivity (if you use them) – will your staff spend more time showing them around and how to do things?

Employers tell us the key is to be realistic about your staffing levels, so they should be based on real recent data rather than overly optimistic targets.

Staffing levels in good and outstanding providers go ‘above and beyond’ basic care and support, and include time for staff to get to know people and support them with their wider wishes and ambitions.

Darren Crowton is a registered manager at Ling Crescent, part of Voyage Care, who are rated ‘outstanding’ by the CQC. They use a care funding calculator to determine how many hours of care is 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.”

And this investment and innovative approach has paid off as the CQC said:

“There were enough staff on duty at all times to meet people’s needs and the registered manager matched staff to people’s preferences, skills and experiences.

“Staffing was allocated based on how many people had been assessed as requiring one to one support and the known needs of the other people using the service. The deputy manager was rostered on shift for three days and the registered manager was available to cover any emergencies.”

Find out more

These tips are taken from our new 'Guide to safe staffing.'

This guide can be used by anyone involved in recruitment and management in regulated adult social care services. It explains what the CQC will inspect around safe staffing, and help you decide and maintain safe staffing levels, embed safe recruitment practices and ensure your staff are safe and competent.

It includes tips about deciding how many staff you need, contingency planning for short-term staff shortages, doing the right recruitment checks and effectively using bank and agency staff.

Download your free copy here.