Blog: Rostering Solutions - Providing a Healthier Working Environment for Healthcare

Rachael Pullen

In the modern day NHS staff shortages, tight budgets and increased patient numbers are an all too common occurrence; and one that can create a headache when filling shifts.

Historically the NHShas turned to filling shifts with bank or agency staff. A short term solution which plugs an immediate gap – but if we are honest this solution creates more of a headache in the long run; as agency staff are not up to speed with the systems that are in place on the ward, don’t have the necessary qualifications or skills, or are not aware of a patient’s care plans which leads to inefficiency as other staff members have to cover, supervise and sign off their workload. This creates an undesirable working environment for staff, certainly not the best environment for patients, and an additional cost to an already stretched budget.

Don’t get me wrong – there is a place for agency staff and the NHS would crumble without their assistance. But if the NHS were to take lessons from the private sector it would save time and costs whilst improving the working environment for staff as well as the experience for patients.

By implementing a rostering solution that optimises the creation and management of shift plans, and of which there are many in the market place you can tailor specific criteria to help with the shift planning process, allowing ward managers to ensure that shifts are staffed automatically based on defined criteria such as contractual hours, qualifications and experience.

This level of automation is essential, particularly in areas such as mental health where specific levels of qualified staff with particular skills are required to ensure the safety of both patients and staff.

Accident and Emergency is another area of the NHS where a rostering solution could prove invaluable. A&E departments do some of the best work in extremely harsh conditions, but have come under fire in recent months for long waiting times and inefficient practices. Many A&E departments are over or understaffed because Trusts rely on a traditional culture and staffing models. However, if they were given the means to use predictive analytics – an integral part of any robust rostering solution – they could match the peaks and troughs of patient demand, with rosters that accurately reflect these needs. This tool would be invaluable during the winter months when pressure on NHS services is at its peak. Last winter the NHS missed its target waiting time with the longest waiting times for nearly a decade. The government has made an extra £250m available to help and has pledged another £250m in a year’s time. Why not invest some of that money into a system that will assist all year round?

A rostering solution would allow the NHS to adapt to changes in shifts due to staff illness or incident by providing clear visibility of the shift plans for the whole department or ward, to show where you can quickly address and adjust your resources to maintain the levels of patient care and achieve the most efficient levels of utilisation.

By utilising a rostering solution to its full advantage, the NHS could decrease agency usage which as well as reducing cost would provide permanent staff with control over their shift work resulting in increased employee morale as well as better talent retention, and more importantly a greatly improved patient experience.

A rostering solution would allow staff to make proactive decisions about their preferences towards work schedules – a bold decision some may suggest – but would offer some level of empowerment to employees enabling them to feel in control of their work life balance thus building an a new and improved culture.

Getting the right clinical resource in the right place, at the right time with the appropriate materials and the right information is key to ensuring excellence in patient care whilst delivering operational and financial KPI’s. It’s time for the NHS to embrace these new technologies to ensure the future of this amazing institution.

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