10 Common Challenges for Workforce Management in the NHS

nhsLast week Kronos hosted its annual conference for the EMEA region – Kronos Live EMEA. The event is naturally one of the highlights of Kronos’ year. Spending time with customers and prospects talking about their workforce management challenges and requirements is invaluable and vital to ensuring that, as a business, we continue to meet the needs of our users.

Ahead of the main conference I also had the pleasure of hosting an intimate dinner for workforce management professionals within the healthcare sector. The discussion was led by LSE professor Dr. Tony Hockley, who recently authored the report – NHS Staffing: Not Just a Number.

It’s clear that NHS Trusts across the UK are all at different stages of technology implementation and – to some extent – their experiences and user demands are unique. However, there are also many commonalities which exist, regardless of a Trusts location, size or the type of care it offers to patients.

Here are my 10 observations – in no particular order – which the NHS faces when approaching workforce management.

  1. Nurses and administrative staff should be proud to be workforce management trailblazers. Some might feel that nurses have been ‘picked on’, as they comprise the majority of health professionals who are currently utilising workforce management or eRostering technology. I think the opposite. Nurses and admin staff are leading the way and inevitably other health professionals (medical and other services, etc.) will follow.
  2. Transparency through technology is essential. The NHS relies on the good nature and professionalism of its employees. But too often this can then be open to mismanagement or abuse. Technology can help to remove guess work and provide evidence around hours worked, shift patterns and workforce anomalies.
  3. Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy! Transparency is only of value if the data is precise and – crucially – provided in real time.
  4. Ratios of staff to patients are important, and collectively we have to get it right and respond positively to proposed government targets. But patient care will never be an exact science. Across all forms of care there are anomalies, inconsistencies and exceptions.
  5. We all want a simpler life… I am always astounded to hear stories from across the NHS about how many shift patterns exist across a Trust. Whilst it’s vital to offer employees the flexibility to fit work around other commitments, greater standardisation and simplicity of shift options means greater efficiency. In one instance a Trust consolidated an unwieldy 68 shift options to just six.
  6. Workforce management solutions are still in their infancy in the NHS. We can certainly learn from private sector industries, such as retail and manufacturing, which are now well established and in their third or fourth iterations of technology deployment. But it is wrong to try and compare like for like. The NHS is different from the private, sector and we have to recognise that.
  7. We all need help to become better managers. One consistent challenge which does exist across private and public sector is that continuous development and training is essential. Nurses shouldn’t be expected to become team managers without investment in management training and learning. The best technology in the world can’t help if managers aren’t confident, empowered and up-skilled to make managerial decisions based on the insight IT solutions provide.
  8. Build a justification case for implementation. In tough economic times, all tech decision makers are under pressure to show the value of their investments and ROI. As technology vendors, it’s our responsibility to help our customers do this.
  9. Change management is the key to success. The NHS is driven by people and behavior. No tech implementation or change to processes and practices will succeed without the buy-in of staff.
  10. Finally, it’s all about the patients. In a climate driven by cost saving, efficiency and cuts, we must never lose sight of the fact that we are all here to serve the best needs of the patient.

 

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