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New guide to safe staffing in the adult social care sector

Skills for Care has published a new guide for adult social care providers on how to ensure safe staffing levels in their services.

The guide has been written for anyone involved in running regulated adult social care services in England which are subject to Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspections, including directors, board members, registered managers, nominated individuals and compliance managers. It describes what inspectors look for when they consider safe staffing levels. It also draws on best practice evidence from inspection reports and case studies from residential and community-based services that are rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by inspectors.

The information is intended to help providers to recognise exactly what a ‘good’ service looks like in the context of safe staffing.

Safe staffing is defined in the guide as about having enough staff in place who have the right values and skills to deliver high quality care and support.

Getting this right is described in the guide as fundamental to a provider’s effectiveness and quality rating. Having enough staff with the right skills and competencies means that a provider is well placed to deliver safe and effective care that is responsive to people’s needs. However, getting it wrong is described by Skills for Care as potentially putting staff and service users at risk.

Three main sections cover the key issues:

  • Safe staffing levels – how many staff do you need?
  • Safe recruitment practices – how to plan recruitment and recruit the right staff
  • Safe and competent staff – how to ensure staff are competent to deliver safe care and support.

The guide highlights how poor staffing, especially staff shortages, can impact on a provider. For instance, the warning signs of inadequate staffing are described in the guide as including:

  • high staff turnover
  • struggling to recruit enough staff
  • new staff leaving within a short time of joining
  • high sickness rates, many of which are stress related
  • unorganised rota systems and staffing processes that are difficult to use and review
  • rotas that are constantly changing
  • staff only having time to perform essential duties and tasks with no time to ‘care’
  • staff having no time to communicate with people they support, families and professionals
  • little consistency in staff
  • over-reliance on temporary workers
  • limited and/or rushed staff inductions
  • staff learning and development restricted to mandatory training
  • limited support for staff such as supervisions.

All of the above factors are described by Skills for Care as placing staff under too much stress which inevitably leads to burnout and low morale.

The guide includes tips on deciding how many staff are needed to provide a safe service, contingency planning for short-term staff shortages, how to do the right recruitment checks and advice on how to effectively use bank and agency staff.

Announcing the publication, Skills for Care Project Manager Rob Hargreaves said:

‘As a manager, it’s your responsibility to decide how many staff you need to deliver a safe, effective and responsive service.

‘This will depend on your service and the people you support, and it could change over time. This guide will help you decide how many staff you need and what you can do to maintain these levels.

‘But safe staffing isn’t just about numbers – it’s about ensuring staff have the right values and skills and stay long enough to build trusting relationships with the people they support.

‘Having a consistent team of staff who know individuals well is an important part of safe staffing. It enables staff to get to know people and their needs better and makes them more likely to notice changes in people’s health and wellbeing.’

Guide to safe staffing can be downloaded for free from the Skills for Care website at https://bit.ly/2XcWipz.