Nurse managers should challenge their staff over shift times, a study shared exclusively with Nursing Times has found.
Research by the Institute for Employment Studies said senior nurses often lack the ability to “challenge custom and practice” in relation to requests for more convenient shift patterns, staggered start times and holiday bookings.
Flexible Nursing, commissioned by NHS Professionals, highlights the need for nurse managers to receive better training in order to create more flexible, productive workforces.
It says: “It is evident that the productivity agenda will dominate policy and practice over the next few years, and will place greater focus on the need to contain staff costs… and enable ‘smarter’ frontline working.”
This will involve “a likely roll back” of some flexibilities that are “seen as primarily existing for the employee and which have a real impact on raising overall staff costs and/or impacting negatively on the quality agenda”.
For example, the right to request flexible working and the fact that most nurses are women has led to strong calls in many trusts for term time working, short shifts and staggered start times.
This has created staffing gaps and a greater reliance on temporary staff, the report says.
It states: “Nursing managers who were unsure of the exact demand and pattern of work of their ward or specialty often acceded to the demands for this type of flexible working, without always having a clear understanding of the likely implications for service delivery.”
E-rostering could help trusts get to grips with activity and staffing data, allowing managers to think “more laterally and creatively” about the most efficient work hours and shift patterns.
NHS Professionals workforce strategist Jenny Hargrave said: “Many nurse managers would complain that they get ample clinical training but inadequate training to manage the roster.”
Trusts could invest in workforce planning training, training in rostering, gathering data on activity and seasonal trends and the productive ward series, she said.
The report also suggests organisations could share staff by creating “talent banks” of permanently employed nurses working across a range of care settings.
Ms Hargrave said: “This would reduce the likelihood of short notice, high cost solutions such as expensive agencies.”