Whilst hospitals are moving to 12 hour shifts care homes are experimenting with six hour shifts! Some hospital have moved from a three shift system to a two shift system, the idea is this gives greater flexibility and makes better use of staff. The shift is now 12 hours,so a longer working day but a shorter working week and more scope to call someone in on their days off to cover shortages rather than use expensive agency staff. Contrast this with a small group of nursing homes who have cut the eight hour shifts to six with no loss of pay to staff as an experiment in improving the quality of care and wellbeing of staff. The thinking is that overworked , exhausted staff are more likely to make mistakes and adopt care practises that ease their work rather than meet the needs of residents. Reducing hours but maintains pay involves employing more staff however it is anticipated that the extra cost will in part be met by reduced absenteeism, overtime and agency staff.
The hospitals are NHS trusts the nursing homes are in Sweden the contrasting approach say much about how the two different countries manage the tension between cost and quality in health and social care. It is counter intuitive for the average NHS chief executive to reduce working hours as away of balancing costs v care. It would be like reducing bed occupancy rates as away of improving A&E waiting times! But wait isn't that what I have just read in the Nursing Times about a study undertaken at Derby Teaching Hospital?
Blair McPherson www.blairmcpherson.co.uk