What is safe staffing, and why is its implementation important?
With over 490,000 patients residing in care homes in the UK, delivering a safe care service requires having a sufficient number of employees with the appropriate values and skills. Hence, it involves more than just managing the quantity of staff but also their quality of care to meet the service requirements. Therefore, taking a closer look at what measures and support are essential to improving the quality of care so that it corresponds with the demands of the industry, this is significant to understand, to provide the right standard of care patients deserve.
What is the standard of care?
The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 on Safe Staffing require “sufficient numbers of suitably qualified, competent, skilled, and experienced persons” to be deployed to meet the service requirements. Accordingly, the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) regulations designed upon this framework not only necessitate all care providers to accommodate a number of staff who possess the ideal qualifications, skills, and experience to meet patient needs, but must also offer guidance, training, oversight, and evaluations necessary for staff to fulfil their expected roles and duties. Furthermore, CQC criteria suggest that staff should always be encouraged to pursue additional education and, provide documentation, when needed, to the relevant regulatory body, demonstrating that they meet the requirements for continuing to practice.
Why is safe staffing necessary?
- To safeguard a continued quality of care
Care personnel may not have enough time to attend to each resident’s requirements in care homes that are understaffed and thus can result in neglect, missing care, or subpar treatment. Safe staffing levels ensure adequate time for staff to give each resident personalised care and assistance, which can enhance resident outcomes and general quality of life.
- To avoid any adverse events
Falls, injuries, accidents, medication errors and exacerbation of pre-existing health conditions can be avoided and minimised when care is optimally provided. Staff members may not have enough time to pay individual attention to residents and ensure they are secure and comfortable when care facilities are understaffed or underqualified. Safe staffing assures the ability of employees to give residents the care and attention they need while also preventing negative outcomes such as additional healthcare costs due to hospitalisations or legal burdens upon care providers due to the lack of a qualitative service.
- Staff retention
Safe staffing levels can also increase employee satisfaction and retention. Especially, when care workers feel overworked and unsupported, this may lead to burnout and high turnover rates. This creates a vicious cycle of hiring and training staff members that further impacts the overall quality of care due to the lack of staff with long-term experience. Safe staffing levels work to boost employee satisfaction, retention, and morale resulting in more stable care teams and greater resident care continuity that is also supportive of care patients by helping to form relationships of trust, which can aid their mental and social wellbeing.
- To attain a positive rating during inspections
All care services that have registered with the CQC are required to be evaluated periodically and post their inspection score on their website and in-person. Hence, understanding the safe staffing criteria and executing them accordingly is significant to receive a ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ rating that further determines the quality of the care service. A provider’s positive ratings can help recruit new employees who are qualified and skilled while helping to retain current staff members.
What measures can be implemented to achieve safe staffing?
- Using dependency tools to identify staffing needs
Dependency tools can aid providers in determining the necessary staffing levels. These tools are designed to gather data in order to determine how dependent each person who needs care and support is, as well as how many staff support hours they require. They can record the amount of time it takes to perform paperwork and other administrative duties. Recognised dependency methods take into account both direct and indirect care, which is frequently disregarded. Particularly, by using supply management platforms and rota scheduling services such as Care Hires, the centralisation of records and information regarding staff size, employee schedules, and commuting times as well as monitoring staff attendance helps to streamline this process to achieve satisfactory staffing levels.
- Utilising technology to assist staffing
Technology is vital for care homes to move forward in providing a simplified and easily accessible system of care for care providers. Often, the quality of care becomes secondary due to mounting administrative concerns, where organising shift schedules and maintaining long-term records takes away the significance of providing the best possible care for the patient. Utilisation of platforms such as Care Hires as a centralised location to manage all internal as well as agency staff and organise rotas seamlessly is beneficial in setting up a standard of care for residents, a centralised system of control and better communication. Furthermore, it offers transparency and compliance with industry regulations and reporting standards, allowing both care providers and care workers to better understand their roles and requirements, and execute them accordingly.
- Setting up contingencies to manage safe staffing
There are a number of factors that may have an effect on a care service’s staffing numbers, both expectedly and unexpectedly. Safe staffing involves having contingencies in place to ensure that those situations may be handled responsibly so as not to compromise the quality of care. For instance, situations of planned or unplanned staff leave, staff sickness or injuries, adverse weather conditions, travel delays, staff resignations, unplanned client recruitments or loss of clients are some of the many possible circumstances that care providers will face during the course of service.
- Following safe recruitment practices
Once care providers determine how many employees are needed, their recruitment efforts must target and choose the best candidates to fill the positions. Without sound hiring procedures and well-planned strategies, care providers run the risk of overlooking crucial verifications and hiring workers who are unsuited for the industry. This raises the danger of giving unreliable care and assistance. Care services can attract the best candidates at the outset who are more likely to be retained by adopting a values-based strategy. Hence, a thorough examination of credentials, experience, training, skills, emotional intelligence and other necessary psycho-social values needed in the provision of care must be followed to attract the ideal care worker. This can help care providers save money and time on recruitment efforts while preserving the continuity of care and support.
- Implementing policies to reduce staff turnover
High staff turnover can have a negative impact on safe staffing levels in care homes, that invariably impact the continuity of care as well as the trust of care residents and their families. To reduce turnover, care homes should implement policies that promote staff retention, such as providing competitive salaries, incentives, offering flexible work schedules, training and support to develop skills, and recognising the staff for their contributions.
The use of safe staff measures in care homes first and foremost, ensures residents are prioritised with the best possible care they can receive from dedicated staff members, and are allowed to experience a general improvement in their health and wellbeing from the satisfactory bond their share with care workers whom they trust. Safe staffing can furthermore benefit care workers to provide a more satisfactory standard of care that rewards them equitably for their hard work and service. Lastly, care provider facilities can further reduce the burdens of turnovers and recruitments and reduce unnecessary costs and focus their efforts on providing a better service.