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Trusts testing technology to make bank shifts more attractive than agency work

  • 8 Comments

New technology is being trialled at 15 trusts in a bid to make bank shifts more attractive and reduce the need for agency nurses, including instant payment and the ability to “opt out” of pension arrangements to earn a higher rate for extra work.

The pilot, funded by the Department for Health and Social Care, will see NHS organisations try out a range of IT solutions designed to make booking and getting paid for bank shifts easier and quicker.

“It gives them the flexibility they want in choosing their working patterns”

Stephen Barclay

In many cases, it will mean nurses using apps on their mobile phones to book shifts and get instant alerts when shifts become available.

At some trusts, payments for shifts will be offered on a weekly or even daily basis and staff will have the option to “opt out” of NHS pension arrangements to get a higher rate of pay for extra shifts.

Such developments will offer greater flexibility to nurses, midwives and others and make it easier to fit extra work around family commitments and caring responsibilities, say those behind the scheme.

Meanwhile, it is hoped the new systems will encourage nurses who might have otherwise sought agency work to do bank shifts instead, helping hospitals reduce spending on agency staff.

“We are thrilled to be chosen as one of first pilot trusts working to improve the way we engage with temporary staff”

Diane Wake

The trial comes on the back of a commitment made by health and care secretary Jeremy Hunt last year to support flexible working and help NHS staff achieve a better work-life balance.

The scheme will be evaluated with the most successful elements set to be rolled out across the health service, said the department.

A spokeswoman told Nursing Times that the department was providing new funding, totalling £517,000, for the initiative, which would be divided between the sites to deliver the pilots.

She added that no single technology company was involved. Instead, all the trusts had been given the funding to develop their own apps, so “it’s their decision as to what providers they use”, she said.

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is among those taking part and will be testing a dedicated mobile app designed to give staff a clear overview of what shifts are available and a fast and simple way to book them.

The app will also trial daily pay so staff will be remunerated immediately for the hours they work, plus an option to “opt in” or “opt out” of pension payment for each shift.

The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust will also be developing quicker payment for staff and reviewing its existing web-based app that provides information about bank shifts.

“We are thrilled to be chosen as one of first pilot trusts working to improve the way we engage with temporary staff and encourage people to join our bank,” said Dudley Group chief executive Diane Wake.

“Recruitment and retention of our staff is a top priority for us to enable us to have a stable workforce delivering first class patient care,” she said.

“Real-time shift booking and ‘on-the-go’ payment is an exciting development”

Mark Power

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust is hoping new shift-booking systems and speedy payment will prove popular with nurses.

“Through the use of a mobile app, staff will be able to select and book shifts direct and receive payment much more quickly,” said interim director of workforce and organisational development Mark Power.

“Real-time shift booking and ‘on-the-go’ payment is an exciting development and should prove of great benefit to everyone,” he said.

Some apps, like the one being trialled at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, will analyse data from trust systems to plan for anticipated spikes in demand and immediately send notifications to bank staff to help ensure shifts are filled.

Health minister Stephen Barclay described the trial as a “win-win” for all.

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Steve Barclay

He said: “A modern NHS needs modern ways of working – and that means using the latest technology to give our dedicated staff more of a choice over how, when and where they want to work.

“We want to make sure they have the right work/life balance if they work extra shifts,” he said.

“This innovative trial is a win-win for everyone – it helps staff provide more consistent care for patients and gives them the flexibility they want in choosing their working patterns,” he said.

“It will also help the NHS reduce its reliance on expensive agency staff,” said Mr Barclay.

The 15 pilot sites are:

  • Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust
  • Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust
  • 2Gether NHS Foundation Trust and Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust
  • Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust
  • The Hertfordshire Consortium (East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust, Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, West Herfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust and The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust)
  • London North West Healthcare NHS Trust and Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust
  • 8 Comments

Readers' comments (8)

  • New technology, new innovation! Who cares! No difference at all! No need for any technology to book bank shifts because availabilities are massive but remain unfilled for obvious reason, NOT WORTH the effort! NHS is a slave driver! NHS workers tediously bleeding at work to make ends meet and force to stop working not because needing to enjoy retirement but because the body is drained of vigor and nearing the deathbed. Very sad reality that NHS workforce is drowned into.

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  • Anthony Johnson

    This would not incentivise me to do bank. Why getting paid quickly or losing funds from my pension is attractive is a mystery to me. Perhaps the Government should stop wasting funds on IT and pump it into wages.

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  • Simple solution: Increase your pay per hour to bank workers. Instead of spending thousands to useless IT scheme or whatever, why not make your pay competitive to what agency are paying? common sense!!!

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  • I actually think this would incentivise me to do more bank shifts, I'm currently part time in my permanent post and top up with occasional bank shifts. If I was to be paid immediately after it would be fantastic! We can already book on the app (NHS Lothian) and that is also great because you can book on a whim and without speaking to anyone! More options regarding hours that fit in with childcare is also great.

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  • Strongly agree with all comments above
    Why waste al these funds on it rather increase nurses pay. What a waste of resources

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  • This is full circle. I can remember when each hospital had their own Staff Bank, which provided extra Nurses when needed. Not this NHSP which claim to be staff bank, It is an AGENCY claiming to be a staff bank paying 2 weekly a pultry amount bleeding the hospital dry. Correct me if I am wrong. Yes pay staff more and stop wasting money on Apps.
    Give Staff paid breaks and places to eat and proper places to change not the toilet.
    Give more than 3 uniforms. Stop the need to take home and wash all the unpleasant matter on it. It served as a continuation of the day as you have taken the day home.

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  • This sounds great! Get paid straight away. Oh, hang on, it'll still be low pay, and there will be problems with the IT so the payments will be late/incorrect. Like the students who have to pay back the loan overpayments they received. And it'll still be low pay compared to other comparable work.

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  • You can have as many apps, texts etc but if you don't have the numbers of nurses nothing works.

    We are short of nurses because the pay is not commensurate with what is expected of us, removal of the bursary adds to that problem. We are expected to jump through hoops to revalidate by the NMC who appears to have lost all credibility and we are NOT respected or supported by the nursing hierarchy whose mission it seems is to appease government.

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