Dr Anas Nader outlines key principles to ensure collaborative staff banks add value to NHS staffing infrastructure 

The intensity of staffing pressures experienced since the onset of covid-19 has put the concept of collaborative staff banks firmly in the spotlight. For NHS organisations, they enable rapid access to an additional pool of workers.

For clinicians, they can unlock flexible working opportunities – potentially saving them from burnout. However, to truly capitalise on the potential power of these banks, trusts must ensure they don’t create additional barriers, administrative complexities or disruptions, or put additional pressure on already overwhelmed temporary staffing teams. 

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Building on Patchwork Health’s experience of creating, amongst others, the UK’s largest collaborative staff bank (the North West England Doctors in Training Bank) we’ve released an in-depth guide on the Key Considerations for Implementing Collaborative Staff Banks.

This includes everything from the different types of collaborative bank models and the pros and cons of varying payroll mechanisms, to tips on drafting data sharing agreements and how to easily keep track of performance.

Below, we outline some of the key principles that collaborative staff banks must consider in order to add value to NHS staffing infrastructure at this critical juncture.

1. Augment your internal staff bank, don’t disrupt it

The core worth of a collaborative staff bank is its ability to augment the existing systems each trust already has in place. Think of it as a staffing safety net. When fill rates are low, a collaborative bank should be able to step into the breach; acting as a centralised booking system that automatically broadcasts unfilled shifts to that additional pool of staff. Furthermore, new trusts joining the collaborative bank shouldn’t disrupt current processes, but simply increase that pool. It should be low touch, high impact.

2. Interoperability is key

In a similar vein, it’s vital that collaborative banks are interoperable with all existing systems and processes, taking pressure off temporary staffing teams. Before embracing a new collaborative bank model, teams should ensure that it can ‘slot in’ with all upstream and downstream systems – connecting rostering, managed services, bank management, vendor management, and payroll systems in ways that align with your current and future processes.

3. Passporting needs to be compliant, safe and effective

Collaborative staff banks not only need to be easy for administrative teams to engage with, but they also must offer a great worker experience. If staff don’t like the system, they won’t use it. And that’s why passporting is so important. For a collaborative bank to truly operate as a staffing safety net and avoid duplication in background checks, workers must be able to safely and compliantly passport their credentials between trusts, preventing any booking violations and protecting against unsafe working practices or data breaches.

4. Offer flexibility of different payment models

The need for integration with existing systems also extends to payments. Impactful collaborative staff banks enable workers to be paid through a trust’s payroll system, on terms that suit them. There are several different models that can be employed – each with its pros and cons. System leaders should, therefore, consider which is most appropriate for their locality. Whether it’s through instant access to earned pay or via distributed payrolls with recharge mechanisms, different trusts have different needs and priorities. Collaborative staff banks need to accommodate that reality accordingly.

5. Harmonisation must be balanced with control

Ease of onboarding and user experience must, however, be balanced with empowerment for each individual trust. Control is central. Each trust will need the safety net of the collaborative bank for different reasons and at different times. The benefits of the collective must, therefore, flex to suit the needs of individual trusts; ensuring you have influence over pay rates, and the ability to configure the bank to your needs.

6. Don’t let a poor implementation impact outcomes

With the roll-out of any new solution, poor implementation can hamper impact. If any of the above benefits are to be realised, a strong implementation tailored to each trust’s unique pain points and goals is essential. Strong implementation should be underpinned by hands-on project management as well as robust stakeholder engagement and change management, to ensure the buy-in of all workers and employers, seamless coordination between organisations, and alignment of all decision-making.

Shaping solutions based on experience

At Patchwork Health, our digital collaborative staff banks are built around these principles (and the steps outlined in the guide above) and informed by our team’s experience of working on the front lines of health and care. From our work with the North West England Doctors In Training Collaborative Bank, to the creation of a covid-19 regional staff bank for London NHS trusts, and establishing the North West London ICS Collaborative Bank, we know how to overcome the challenges associated with collaborative banks.

Claire Scrafton, deputy director of HR at the St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals Trust has said: “Launching a collaborative bank has been a game-changer for our region. It’s enabled our hospitals to pool resources in a way that works interoperably with individual systems – driving up bank fill rates and offering our workers a more flexible way of working. The bank is already proving essential. For us, it’s a massive step forward towards full collaboration across the North West.”

Collaborative staffing banks hold huge promise. When built and deployed correctly, they can remove the barriers that have for too long isolated trusts from each other. We can shift the focus from reactive fire-fighting to proactive, outcomes focused solutions which empower staff, enable safer patient care and unite NHS stakeholders.

Read Patchwork’s full guide on Key Considerations for Implementing Collaborative Staff Banks

To find out more, please get in touch via hello@patchwork.health



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