The NHS isn’t broken, it’s very much alive and responsive but better workforce planning could improve outcomes for both patients and staff.
Over the Christmas and New Year holiday my wife (who is a clinician for the NHS) and I were taking a much-deserved break in a small seaside village in North Wales when we witnessed the work of the NHS at first hand. The North Wales Air Ambulance swooped down over our remote holiday cottage and landed nearby, staff rushed out to assist a local lady and within a few hours emerged hugging and smiling after having delivered one of the first babies of 2019.
This got us both thinking about how much we can rely on the NHS to be there when we need it and why this unique and much-loved institution receives such a bad press for doing the very best it can do with the resources available.
Being in a privileged position of working closely with NHS workforce teams, I see first-hand the frustration with matching ‘resources with demand’ at NHS trusts. Many trusts struggle to fill gaps in the rota and meet the NHSi hourly rate cap for temporary workers because of the number of staff vacancies – accounting for over 80 per cent of all locum bookings. Service pressure adds another 7 per cent of locum bookings, indicating that trusts are continuing to rely on typically more expensive agency staff to cope with the demand on services during the ‘everlasting NHS winter’.
However, what I have also seen is how trusts can achieve better workforce planning, retain regular workers and reduce the costs of temporary staff through the use of their own temporary pool of staff. Medical banks are the most efficient way to recruit temporary staff. There are currently around 21 NHS trusts in England working with us to develop their own internal staff bank and this is a trend we know will continue in 2019. Our TempRE service assists the NHS in building staff banks with experienced on-site and off-site support plus expert advice and guidance so trusts can make the most of their staff banks, attract more workers to register, and fill shifts in the most cost-effective way.
It also puts the power back into the hands of the doctor, nurse or healthcare assistant. Bank workers can choose the hours that they want to work. This makes bank work a popular choice for parents and those with personal commitments as there is no obligation to work on days and they only need accept the shifts that they are able to work.
We know that NHS trusts can save up to £332 per shift by switching to a bank consultant rather than an agency worker – freeing up this finance to potentially recruit more workers to the bank and relieve some of the pressures faced by full-time hard working and dedicated NHS staff. Staff banks can give NHS trusts and organisations an army of workers who have all been reviewed and approved to work – allowing a level of reassurance that they will be able to maintain safe standards of patient care in a manageable way.
The launch this week of the NHS long-term plan tackles head on some of these workforce issues such as recruiting and retaining the right number of staff. This is crucial, not only to ensure that patients are supported around the clock (wherever they happen to be) but also to ensure that our doctors, nurses and emergency workers get the NHS outcomes they also deserve to achieve.
Business Development Manager – Liaison’s Workforce Effectiveness Business,