NHS Safe Staffing – 6 Key Findings

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In our last blog we discussed the increased pressures facing the NHS and how organisations such as NICE, are offering their guidance on achieving safe staffing in the NHS through technology and toolkits. Kronos hosted a series of ‘safe staffing’ workshops with NHS trust managers which offered some valuable insight into the challenges facing NHS trusts today. Of course each trust has quality patient care top of mind, but when it comes to achieving this, there are a number of operational issues they must overcome.

From the three workshops we hosted, the top operational challenges facing trusts at the moment are:

 

  1. Planning efficient rosters and robust ‘sign off’ of those rosters

After much discussion, it was evident that many of the trusts are still battling to successfully embed eRostering into the culture of the trusts. The effective implementation of any technology relies on senior management and CEOs. It requires their understanding and evangelising of the benefits of the solution to the whole team. Furthermore, making is clear how the solution will be used and enforce the processes rigidly.

A recent report from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) revealed that 72% of staff reported that staff shortages occur frequently. A further 66% have also considered leaving the health service because of increased workloads and the stresses of the job. This makes it clear that action must be taken to keep the workers on the side of the NHS. When these workers feel stressed and overworked it can negatively impact the work they do and patient care they provide. Senior NHS management must therefore recognise the importance of technology in supporting safe staffing initiatives.

 

  1. Inefficient data collection

Inefficient data collection regarding the actual attendance of staffing is a serious issue for three reasons. The first is that the lack of real-time data capture of activity, means ward managers have an administrative overhead caused by retrospectively entering the data. The second is how manual data entry results in the data being more likely to be inaccurate. Lastly, the lack of real-time visibility from this data collection method means important staffing decisions are delayed, ultimately resulting in the quality of care being compromised.

These issues can be resolved if trusts implement time and attendance (T&A) solutions to record, using real-time data capture, the presence and availability of the nursing team.

 

  1. Alignment of the digital data held within trusts

Staff are currently using a range of different technologies in their day-to-day roles. They would like to see how all these technologies and devices could strategically ‘talk’ to one another where possible. This would improve the quality of data gathered because it could be cross referenced with the different measurements being made. It was good to see that, following concerns raised by NHS employees about staffing levels on more than 2,500 occasions in the last year, a government spokesperson said that a national framework for the “reporting of adverse events” will be rolled out. It’s crucial that we begin to see more consistency across trusts in terms of technology and reporting, in order to keep the service aligned and quality of care monitored effectively.

 

  1. High level visibility of actual staffing on shift by shift basis

The operational management of safe staffing was a heavily discussed area in our panels. The process for many trusts would entail a ‘breakfast staffing’ meeting at Matron-level each morning to go through the plan for the whole day.

The general consensus was that scenarios could still change throughout the day, and therefore, the morning meetings can be lengthy and costly in terms of time and efficient use of senior staffing. Systems such as Kronos OptiLink and T&A provide management of staff with the holistic visibility into the staffing on their wards and across the whole trust, freeing up time usually spent on morning planning meetings.

 

  1. Compliance and validity of acuity recording within trusts

It was found to be quite challenging to measure how effective the decision-making is of the nurse logging the acuity recordings. Without an investment of staff resource to either do the recording corporately or to scrutinise the data, there is no real way of measuring this.

Kronos OptiLink makes the capturing of acuity data simple and efficient, using tablet devices. Having acuity data on the tablet devices also helps with handovers between nurses, giving them the ability to review and discuss the recorded conditions of the patients easily.

 

  1. Commissioning

Trusts were keen on the idea of being able to consider detail at a commissioner level and how impactful this could be on future contracts being awarded to a trust and equally, investment in services. They saw the value in being able to articulate the service need more figuratively and identify trends, as well as how this could have a positive outcome.

For more information on Kronos for healthcare solutions visit www.kronos.co.uk/healthcare

 

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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.

 

How good is your vision?

Better VisibilityWhether you agree or disagree with the age old adage of “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”, the fact remains that having better visibility sure makes life easier.

Take driving for instance. If we didn’t have side windows, and relied only on the windscreen, at some stage we would inevitably get side-swiped by something we didn’t see or anticipate. The same goes for business too. We stand a much greater chance of meeting our business objectives if we are able to anticipate, visualise and react to the changing needs of our internal and external customers.

One of the most rewarding things about my role is meeting our customers and learning how our solutions are making a positive impact to their organisations. On almost every occasion, at some stage during our discussions, the customers will cite “greater visibility” as being one of the key benefits of their Kronos workforce management solution.

A brief story…..

On a recent visit to one of our UK hospitality customers I asked their operations manager what benefits Kronos is delivering. It was fantastic to hear him say the solution was delivering a 6% to 8% saving on labour costs as a result of improved labour demand forecasting and scheduling. However, he went on to say that the true benefit to him personally is the ‘visibility’ the solution delivers. Having detailed labour data at his fingertips means he can now have meaningful conversations with each of his general managers. He is able to discuss and review the impact that programmes and activities, such as staff training or additional labour budget allocations, are truly having on their sales performance.

When building a business case for a workforce management solution you need to focus on the tangible benefits, which in the main will be around cost reduction. However, once the solution is live it’s the intangible benefits that start to materialise and make a positive impact on the business and the individuals.

In the case of this particular customer their business is growing significantly, and so is their labour budget. But having visibility into key labour metrics is allowing them to maximise their return on labour budget and build an even stronger business. www.kronos.co.uk

Neil Pickering, Twitter: @ZamberP

 

A Lighter Look at Customer Dissatisfaction

One way to improve customer service is to make sure enough staff are available to serve your customers… I am sure we have all been in this situation? By scheduling staff accurately and using  data analytics to forecast demand – you will take one step closer to making your customers very happy!

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Manage Your Staff Well And Prevent Those Christmas Blues

Christmas BluesFor many people this is the final day of work till the New Year. Others like care workers, policemen and hospital workers will be working over the whole of the festive period. Working unsociable hours can be crucial in order to boost many people’s income and they welcome the extra money in their pay packet. For some employees, however, working unsociable hours and missing out on time with their family can lead to serious issues with their engagement and productivity. Often there is no easy solution to this thorny problem and bosses have no choice but to schedule employees to work and for many employees it is part of their contract of employment.

Of course it isn’t only during the holiday season that employers find it difficult to balance employee wishes and business goals, any periods when customer demand increases can cause issues with staff scheduling.  However, there are steps businesses can take to ensure that they minimise employee disengagement and gain tighter control of overtime costs

Managers can minimise the impact on employees and their bottom line if they are able to track and schedule their employees fairly and accurately. Controlling overtime payments and absence by scheduling those people who have spare hours available and are happy to work is a lot easier if they have the processes and technology to automatically manage employees. Making self-service shift preferences available and keeping an eye on absence levels can help managers monitor employee engagement and make informed decisions around scheduling.

You can find out more about employee engagement and how important it is to your business take a look at this white paper ‘Employee Engagement As A Competitive Differentiator’

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74 shopping days to Christmas & circa 100,000 extra staff to manage – Ho, Ho, Ho!

Christmas HelpersWith just 74 shopping days to  Christmas, many organisations are already geared up to hire more employees to cover the Christmas period. Many sectors are affected by seasonal demand but Retail, Hospitality, Logistics and Distribution are generally the largest employers of temporary workers over this period.

According to figures from the British Retail Consortium, ­big-name stores between them take on almost 5% extra staff from October onwards, which amounts to 54,703 workers (almost 1,000 for every shopping day between then and Christmas). Among the largest employers are our supermarkets. Last year the leading three stores took on nearly 30,000 extra seasonal staff, with Tesco recruiting 6,000, Asda 7,000 and Sainsbury’s a whopping 15,000.

Even outside retail there are many organisations with a huge need for seasonal staffing, distribution and logistics for example with  the Royal Mail set to recruit more than 21,000 seasonal staff to help sort our Christmas post. These temporary jobs are available between early November and January 2014 to support Royal Mail’s permanent 124,000 postmen and women who sort and deliver the mail all year round.

That’s a lot of new employees to onboard, train, schedule and pay accurately in a very short space of time.

Once sourced, the biggest issue for these organisations is how to schedule and monitor the hours that their seasonal staff work. Many of them like the Co-Operative Group, IKEA, Wincanton and DHL benefit from an automated workforce solution that can monitor, track and schedule employees to demand and ensure employees are paid correctly. This can ease the burden for managers– saving time on back office tasks and giving them more time to train and supervise the performance of new (and existing) staff, ensuring that customers remain satisfied. So if you are sick of seasonal headaches when managing your temporary Christmas staff it may be time to consider a solution that will help productivity, customer satisfaction and your bottom line.