• Milton Keynes University Hospital Trust halves £21m agency spend over four years 
  • Chief executive Joe Harrison says focus on technology and staff wellbeing has helped retain employees 
  • Trust also introduced free staff parking in May this year

A foundation trust has halved its multimillion-pound agency staff spend after introducing a series of workforce benefits.

In 2015-16, Milton Keynes University Hospital FT spent £21m on agency staff, accounting for 14.6 per cent of the trust’s total workforce costs. Four years later, the trust has reduced this to £10m – or 5.8 per cent of total staffing costs – after ramping up its efforts to recruit and retain staff.

Improving staff engagement, focusing on the link between technology and workforce and the launch of the trust’s first health and wellbeing strategy have all contributed to the savings, according to MKUH health bosses.

In particular, MKUH chief executive Joe Harrison said the 2017 introduction of app Ryalto, which allows staff to book bank shifts on their phones, has played a part in helping to reduce staff turnover.

He told HSJ: “We have got an electronic rostering system where if you want to book a shift you can do it sitting on your sofa 10pm at night, rather than have to go into a bank office or fill in a form.

“We pay or bank staff weekly [under the new system]. That was some of the feedback we got from people when we asked what would entice you to do an extra shift or two. People say ‘I don’t want to get paid in six weeks’ time if I do a shift tomorrow. I want to get paid at the end of the week.’

“Things like that have made a really big difference.”

From March 2015 to March 2019, MKUH’s overall staff turnover reduced from 15 per cent to 10.9 percent.

In 2016-17, the trust launched its first health and wellbeing strategy, which included a physiotherapy service for staff with musculoskeletal conditions. The service has enabled staff who have had time off to return to work more quickly, according to MKUH’s annual report and accounts for 2018-19, thereby reducing the reliance on agency staff.

A three-day staff conference has been held for the past three years on the MKUH site, known as “Event in the Tent”, after employees said they wanted to be more informed about plans for the hospital.

In May, Mr Harrison announced a new staff benefits scheme was being launched, which included free staff parking and plans to build a new staff car park. Trust officials say the scheme already seems to be helping to improve staff turnover figures, however, it is “too early to tell” what the long-term impact will be.

The trust has also created bullying and harassment adviser roles and trained managers to help tackle work-related stress as part of its efforts to retain its workforce.

Mr Harrison added: “We come back to the key elements around technology and workforce.

“You get those two working and actually the efficiencies are fantastic. The health and wellbeing of the staff improves significantly as well.

“It’s a no-brainer to focus on those.”