Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has “set expectations” for trusts to boost their use of e-rostering technology in order to better manage ward staffing levels and improve flexible working opportunities.
He told a conference today that working conditions for staff will be improved by setting expectations about the use of e-rostering in trusts.
“Matching the right mix of staff to a shift or rota is a central organising principle”
Mr Hunt told delegates that trusts would be expected to comply with a best practice guide on e-rostering, which was published earlier this year by NHS Improvement, by the end of 2017.
This policy will be supported by up to £200,000, so trusts can manage staff rotas and staffing levels on wards, he said.
The technology will also allow nursing staff to check rotas online and make requests, simplifying the process for many, Mr Hunt said at the NHS Providers annual conference in Birmingham.
Such technology has become increasingly popular among NHS organisations over recent years, though trusts use various types products and some use it more than others.
The health secretary made the announcement as part of a series of measures to “improve the working lives” of staff, including policy on nursing degree apprenticeships and nursing associates.
Mr Hunt said the NHS was “not doing enough, particularly when it comes to e-rostering”.
“In a working environment like the NHS, matching the right mix of staff to a shift or rota is a central organising principle,” he said.
He highlighted that Lord Carter’s review of NHS efficiency and productivity had pointed to the “enormous clinical and financial potential of e-rostering” for making best use of staff time.
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“Whilst most trusts do now have access to e-rostering software, few are using it to its full potential,” said Mr Hunt in his speech to NHS leaders.
“Places like Stoke Mandeville, Plymouth and the Lister in Stevenage use e-rostering tools that are not just populated with real time information on the acuity of patients, but also meaningful data on the personal needs and skills of staff available so that rostering is flexible, personalised and needs-based,” he said.
He added: “Earlier this year NHS Improvement produced a best practice guide on e-rostering, and by the end of the next calendar year I want all trusts to make sure they are meeting it.”
The health secretary also announced measures to encourage the spread of best practice across the NHS in England.
“We know that NHS trusts develop world-class systems and practices all the time but that these practices aren’t diffused between trusts too often,” he said.
“In order to support you do this, I am also announcing funding for a new best-practice sharing initiative to allow staff in trusts that are meeting the standard to spread their knowledge to other trusts,” said Mr Hunt.
Mr Hunt made the announcement this morning as part of a keynote speech, where he also provided further details about degree-level nurse apprenticeships.
He confirmed that degree-level nurse apprenticeships are expected to begin from September, with up to 1,000 aspiring nurses training via this route in the NHS every year once programmes have been fully established.
In response, Jon Skewes, director for policy, employment relations and communication at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “The RCM welcomes comments made by Jeremy Hunt today, particularly his acknowledgment of the need for flexible working for NHS staff.
“We hope that these remarks will be translated into swift action and better, more flexible working conditions not only for midwives, but for all NHS staff,” he said. “It is such a false economy for the NHS to deny midwives flexible working because the NHS will end up losing their skills and experience altogether.
“Over 99% of midwives are women and the vast majority are parents trying to balance working 12 hour shifts in a 24/7 service with childcare,” he said. “This can make childcare very difficult and expensive which is why access to flexible working is so important.”