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NHS safer staffing tool now available to mental health trusts

Mental health trusts now have the opportunity to use an innovative, evidence based and multidisciplinary NHS safer staffing support tool. The Mental Health Optimal Staffing Tool (MHOST) calculates clinical staffing requirements in mental health wards based on patients’ needs (acuity and dependency) which, together with professional judgement, guides chief nurses and ward based clinical staff in their safe staffing decisions.
by Shelford Group
10 May 2019

Mental health trusts now have the opportunity to use an innovative, evidence based and multidisciplinary NHS safer staffing support tool. The Mental Health Optimal Staffing Tool (MHOST) calculates clinical staffing requirements in mental health wards based on patients’ needs (acuity and dependency) which, together with professional judgement, guides chief nurses and ward based clinical staff in their safe staffing decisions.

Ensuring that NHS organisations have the right staff, with the right skills in place, has been a key trust board requirement since the NHS National Quality Board issued guidance in 2016 emphasising the need for evidence based, patient need driven, staffing levels in all mental health care settings.

The Mental Health Optimal Staffing Tool (MHOST) was created, with the support of Health Education England, in recognition that there was no published, evidenced based mental health workforce tool which could be used in mental health hospitals. It has been developed alongside clinical leaders and workforce staff in mental health trusts and rigorously tested and validated.

The MHOST can be used in any mental health hospital within England, covering the following specialisms:

  • Working age adult admission wards
  • Old age functional and dementia wards
  • Forensic (high and medium secure wards)
  • CAHMS tier 4 wards
  • Eating disorder wards
  • Perinatal wards
  • Psychiatric intensive care units
  • Low secure and rehabilitation wards.

The MHOST is part of a suite of Safer Nursing Care Tools (SNCT), delivered by the Shelford Group chief nurses in partnership with Imperial College London, which include those for adult in-patient wards, acute medical units and children and young people’s wards. The SNCT is endorsed by NICE and supported by NHS Improvement and NHS England. The SNCT are widely used across NHS organisations in England, as well as in private health providers and in many overseas healthcare organisations.

Kenny Laing, deputy chief nurse at Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and national lead nurse of the MHOST, said:

“The Mental Health Optimal Staffing Tool is an innovative, yet simple to use, way of helping to ensure that mental health hospitals can make evidence based decisions on safe staffing levels that support patients’ needs. This new tool will not only help to improve the care and outcomes for some of the most vulnerable patients, it will also help to improve the working environment of staff in the mental health sector. I would urge all mental health hospitals to use the MHOST to guide them in their safe staffing decisions.”

Janice Sigsworth, chief nurse at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and chair of the Safer Nursing Care Tool steering committee, said:

“Having the right level of staff in all hospitals, including mental health, is fundamental for safe and high-quality patient care, as well as a good working environment. The Safer Nursing Care Tools that we have developed in partnership with Imperial College London are already transforming the way that NHS trusts plan their nursing workforce needs and I have no doubt that the Mental Health Optimal Staffing Tool will support mental health hospitals in their safe staffing decisions.”

Ruth May, NHS chief nursing officer for England, said:

“Staffing remains high on the agenda of the chief nursing officer (CNO). We have introduced the ‘workforce safeguards’ policy to further strengthen the process and accountability of organisations for setting effective staffing. We have also directly invested in the CNO Safer Staffing Fellowship Programme, which will provide the next generation of leaders with the expertise in determining effective staffing. 

“We know that determining the number, skill mix and professional make up of our staffing requirements has to be based on patient needs  - and this new tool for mental health is much needed and provides a systematic approach to support these decisions to be made using an evidence based method  for patients using our mental health services. It is a very welcome addition to the national effective staffing agenda.”

The Safer Nursing Care Tools (SNCT), including the MHOST, are free to use by NHS trusts in England and can be licensed via Quicktech here: http://quicktech.imperialinnovations.co.uk/ct/Surveys_Questionnaires/

The MHOST and SNCT are licensed via Imperial College London on behalf of the Shelford Group. Licensing enquiries should be directed via manish.patel@imperial.ac.uk

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