• East and North Hertfordshire Trust updated e-rostering system to plan eight weeks in advance
  • Trust reduced agency spending by 50 per cent
  • Experts say e-rostering should be available on mobile devices to meet workforce needs

A trust has cut its spending on agency staff by half through greater use of electronic rostering.

East and North Hertfordshire Trust updated its e-rostering system, which enabled it to “better tailor patient care” and “improve its staffing makeup”, Liz Lees, director of nursing at the trust, said.

She said: “We plan our rosters eight weeks in advance. This enables our in-house e-roster team and our heads of nursing go through a risk profile ahead of time.

“Through these processes we saw a 50 per cent reduction in agency spend from 16 per cent of our budget in January 2017, to 8 per cent in June.”

The trust also established an enhanced nursing care team, which contributed to the reduction in agency spend. In quarter one of 2016-17, spending on temporary staff for enhanced care was £225,322, compared to £83,463 in quarter one in 2017-18.

The figures are included in new research by the Workforce Deployment Expert Group. It found that by reducing the use of agency staff and “more intelligently” deploying core staff, trusts can provide patients with better care, while using their resources more effectively. The report examines data from several trusts.

The research found the further in advance trusts approve a rota, the more use of agency staff is reduced.

Over a 12 month period, Allocate Software – an e-rostering service provider – took data on approval lead time and average agency use from 57 trusts. The results show as the lead time on roster approval lengthened, there was a gradual decrease in the use of agency staff.

Rosters with an approval lead time of two weeks or less had an average agency use of 5.45 per cent of staff, however rosters with an approval lead time of 4-6 weeks had an average agency use of 4.04 per cent.

The research found the top 20 trusts for approval lead time had an average agency use of 3.9 per cent, whereas the 20 trusts with the shortest lead time for publishing their rosters had much higher average use at 6.34 percent.

NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer, who is part of the Workforce Deployment Expert Group, said the report shows how some trusts “lead the way” in using technology to better manage and support clinical teams.

“The use of the data the NHS holds is a powerful tool to improve safety, reduce spend on agencies and improve staff retention,” he added.

The group also recommended e-rostering should be personalised and available on mobile devices to meet the needs of staff members and become a “real time mechanism” for patient safety. It also said workforce data should be used to redesign teams and meet the needs of patients.

Health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt said at the NHS Providers conference last year that NHS Improvement believes £1.4bn a year can be saved by 2020-21 if all trusts follow best practice in e-rostering and workforce planning.