Five key tips to improving workforce planning through data-driven rostering

Paul Walker, Chief Technical Officer at Skills for Health, looks at how data-driven rostering can help improve workforce planning

The effective deployment of the workforce underpins all care services. The challenges of ensuring people are in the right roles, with the right skills, crucially at the right time, cannot be understated. To create flexible, sustainable services against the backdrop of the challenge to restore care services, meeting new demands and reducing elective backlogs, we must first understand how best to maximise staff utilisation amidst people shortages.

The 2021/22 priorities and operational planning guidance published by NHS England, it states that service providers should: “Maximise the use of and potential benefits of eRostering, giving staff better control and visibility of their working patterns, supporting service improvements and the most effective deployment of staff’. It also asks providers to: “show how they intend to meet the highest level of attainment, as set out by NHS England’s ‘meaningful use standards’ for e-job planning and eRostering.”

What can providers adopt from NHS England’s guidance, to also establish effective staff utilisation, and workforce management?

Understanding where you are and where you want to get to:

The first step in workforce planning is understanding your organisation and how it works. What are the elements that make your situation unique? All organisations share a common model, but also have unique challenges. It’s important to recognise and understand these, so that they don’t trip you up at some stage down the line. Don’t write off manual processes; they may work very well but be slow and take up resource. Think instead about how these can be automated and what else they could connect to?

Flexibility for a work-life balance:

Next, you need to understand one of the most important parts of the jigsaw – your staff. Looking after them and effectively deploying them is crucial. Are you sure they’re only working their contracted hours and aren’t being over-worked? Do they have the flexibility they need to maintain a good work-life balance? Are you sure they are not being asked to act up or down? This has other implications in terms of efficiency and planning. All of this must also be critically balanced with patient safety.

The key to good eRostering:

You can only achieve this by having systems that provide real-time feedback on staff planning, that will quickly and easily allow you to react and manage resourcing pro-actively. Compliance is an essential measure of how we safeguard patients and protect the welfare of our staff. Real-time compliance reporting is a vital tool in monitoring how effectively staff are being utilised, and not over-stretched or breaking contractual rules. It should not be seen as a pass or fail indicator; it is there to highlight issues and let us effectively and efficiently deal with them.

Digital roadmap:

As data-driven solutions continue to enhance our understanding of what good workforce planning looks like, you are going to need to invest in workforce management solutions that not only help you map your staffing needs now, but also understand your staffing needs for the future. Independent healthcare providers, increasingly supporting more and more elective services and NHS backlog, should look at the best-in-class solutions used by the NHS. Considering system interoperability and the integrated care agenda to promote the adoption of a joined-up system to manage workforce movement and utilise workforce data to better understand staffing needs for the best possible service delivery.

No system is an island, some vendors may push you to buy their own closed system. Unfortunately, that can lead to putting up with a solution which is anything but optimal. A good solutions vendor will commit to integrating with your IT landscape and agreeing to KPIs that ensure great service. As workforce movement across services continues to vary, it’s worth considering the workforce management systems suitable and trusted by the NHS, to synchronise your own approach to mapping workforce needs, in line with your service demands.

What people deserve:

Finally, make sure you embark on solutions that will deliver what you and your staff deserve. A flexible, customisable solution, backed up by knowledge and support, giving you a system, you can trust as well as delivering the results you need.

Skills for Health’s new, recently launched, integrated Custom Rostering System (CRS) is as a tool for culture change, transforming workforce planning roles from data entry to data intelligence.

“The system has helped us reduce locum use and administration costs and as a result it has been adopted as one of our Trust’s Quality Innovation Productivity and Prevention (QIPP) projects.”

Medical Staffing Officer, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Providing cutting-edge improvements that enables the seamless rostering of any staff group, CRS ensures total workforce visibility through safe, compliant, and more effective rosters for better patient care.

“Custom Rostering has continued to make our processes easier. This will especially help when we’re dealing with large scale logistics across multiple rotas.”

Medical Workforce Operations Manager, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
This new system seamlessly integrates with third party software including HR systems, electronic staff records, payroll solutions and locum/bank systems, making unparalleled savings on valuable time and money.