Managing staff working patterns in order that there are enough staff to do a job safely whilst providing high quality care to patients without over-staffing is a complex business.

Add to that the complications of holidays, sickness, study leave and those wanting to work family-friendly hours and the task of building suitable rosters takes on mammoth proportions. 

To ensure that there are enough staff to cope, trusts have a policy of employing extra staff resources, often referred to as “head room”; with auto-rostering and e-rostering, head room percentages can be reduced with no detrimental effect to either patient care or safety while providing a better working environment for staff. 

One trust we have worked with has reduced its entire nursing budget by 1 per cent. The reduction in head room from 24 to 23 per cent was achieved by implementing e-rostering across its 84 nursing areas. Plus, this is all before the project is even complete, as bank management, which will enable the trust to optimise its workforce/”>workforce even further, is still to be installed.

While it is great to hear such detailed examples of just how much can be saved by the introduction of workforce management solutions like e-rostering, time and attendance and bank management, it doesn’t come as any surprise to us. Manual rostering and bank management is time-consuming and error prone. As the NHS is under huge pressure to reduce costs wherever possible, implementing these automatic systems is a win-win outcome for trusts. 

It is a win-win-win outcome for all in fact: patients receive a safer, higher quality of care; staff get better rosters, more notice of working hours and the knowledge that they and everyone else are being treated equally and fairly; staff are paid overtime on time; and the trust makes large savings because it is using its key resource - staff - more efficiently.

Workforce efficiency assessment.

During a recent analysis of data gathered from various trusts, including acute, mental health and PCTs, through our Workforce Efficiency Assessment (WEA) service we discovered that average savings per ward of £35,000 per year were achievable - which equates to savings of £1200 per employee. The highest potential savings were in excess of £100,000 per year, per ward, and £4000 per employee per year.

Going through a WEA process prior to implementing e-rostering systems can act as a catalyst for change. Trusts can analyse their working practices and see where the inefficiencies within the current ways of working lie. Areas for improvement can then be highlighted. During the WEA, detailed analysis can take place of shift patterns, rotas and local workforce conventions and agreements can be made before new working patterns are recommended.

All savings discussed so far are definable numbers that clearly make a difference to the trust’s bottom line, but there are numerous, less easily quantifiable benefits which are just as invaluable to trusts. By providing a system that is visible to all and actually showing that everyone is being dealt with in the same way promotes fairness and consistency. Knowing in advance what shifts they will be working will allow staff to arrange their home lives accordingly; and knowing that they will get paid accurately for the hours worked - and on time - makes a huge difference to staff motivation. In addition, being able to request certain rosters or extra hours via the bank management system gives staff an element of control over their working lives.

Senior staff such as ward sisters, matrons and deputy nursing directors have all saved countless hours due to the fact that e-rostering and auto-rostering are so much quicker than a manual process. These are all precious hours that are diverted back to patient care, which can help to alleviate the system’s severest pressure points.

These less tangible benefits are often the ones that win hearts and minds of staff and managers, and trusts need to consider the huge financial benefits which can be made by analysing an approach and then altering or tweaking areas so as to maximise efficiency.