Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust is deploying a new system to help ensure that staffing levels are always aligned with the numbers and needs of patients on the wards.

The trust has adopted the SafeCare system from Allocate Software, which will give ‘live’ updates for each ward on: the number of nurses and their grades; the number of patients; and each patient’s level of dependency and the seriousness of their condition

SafeCare will be introduced first at North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple, then on the inpatient wards at community hospitals across northern and eastern Devon.

Director of nursing at the Northern Devon, Carolyn Mills, described the roll-out as a really important development for patients and staff alike.

“We’ll be able to keep a close eye all the time on our staffing levels and how these fit with the numbers and types of patient on each ward,” she said.

“In the longer term, the information we build up will give us a better understanding of the needs of patients on different wards, so we can anticipate demand and make any necessary adjustments to our baseline staffing.”

The trust expects Safecare to be fully in use across its hospitals early in the 2014.

The move is in line with recommendations from the Francis report into the scandal at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which highlighted the importance of adequate nursing cover.

Responding to the report, health secretary Jeremy Hunt last month announced that reporting of numbers of nursing staff on hospital wards will be mandatory from next April.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence will create a ‘toolkit’ suggesting minimum ‘safe’ levels of staffing for each ward.

Hospitals will also have to report on how often staffing levels fall short of the safe minimum and the information will be made available on a new patient safety website.

Chief nursing officer for England, Jane Cummings, said that publishing staffing data will lead to better care.