Senior nurses will be trained in how to use the Safer Nursing Care Tool to help tackle inconsistent safe staffing plans in the NHS.

A letter to chief nurses from NHS Improvement’s chief nurse Ruth May has invited trusts to send a member of staff on a special fellow’s programme developed by NHSI and the Shelford Group of trusts.

The programme, which will begin in February 2019 and be repeated in April, is designed to spread awareness and knowledge of the SNCT. The tool was first developed in 2006 and is the only evidence based tool in use within the NHS.

The new training scheme, which is the first of its kind and will lead to a post graduate certificate with the option to progress to a master’s level, will aim to ensure the tool is consistently applied across the NHS.

In the letter to chief nurses, Ruth May said: “We recognise that there is a variation in the knowledge of evidence based decision support tools such as the SNCT as well as a lack of consistency in the correct implementation and application of these tools across England.”

In a statement, she added that workforce planning was as important as ever for patients and staff while nurses were under “significant pressures”.

“This training programme will help senior nurses develop deeper knowledge about safe staffing systems, along with the skills to apply this knowledge and expertise on the frontline. This will benefit patients and ensure widespread best practice within the wider NHS,” she said.

The fellowship will be a 12-24 month modular programme designed for part time study. Modules include setting the context around workforce planning in health, measuring workload and staffing systems, updated and developing evidence based tools, and governance issues.

Janice Sigsworth, chief nurse at Imperial College Healthcare Trust and chair of Shelford Group Chief Nurses, said: “The SNCT is an excellent example of the capacity for innovation within the NHS frontline, with a clear impact for patients resulting from an evidence based approach to making effective workforce planning decisions.

“The fellow’s programme enables us to equip nurses across England with this knowledge, building a team of experts that will sustain this best practice, now and into the future, and embed it where it is needed most within the system.”