A leading nurse is spearheading a “workforce improvement” programme launched by a software company to help hospitals improve staffing and save money through better use of e-rostering.
Lyn McIntyre, who developed official guidance on effective e-rostering, will head up Allocate Software’s Workforce Improvement Programme. It will see her work closely with 20 acute trusts to help them “get a better grip on rostering” with “tangible benefits” for frontline nursing staff, she said.
“It’s about helping ward managers make changes and improvements”
The scheme will include exploring ways to use the controversial new care hours per patient day (CHPPD) measure, which was recommended by Lord Carter’s review of efficiency in NHS hospitals.
Ms McIntyre, who has joined the firm from the Department of Health, worked on the nursing workforce element of the Carter review, which concluded earlier this year that effective e-rostering could save the NHS billions.
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“One of the things we identified going round visiting trusts was there were improvements they could make when it came to their rostering systems,” she said.
“We have lots of tools within e-rostering systems, but what we need to do is help staff understand how to use them and get the best out of them,” she told Nursing Times.
She is now in the process of recruiting 20 trusts who already use the Allocate HealthRoster system to take part in a 90-day improvement process starting in September.
Ms McIntyre said a key aspect of the process was that it would involve frontline nurses identifying where change was needed and leading the way.
“It’s about how we can use the resource we’ve got better”
Trusts will be asked to recruit a project team to include a member of senior management, e-rostering leads, HR and, crucially, ward managers responsible for day-to-day rostering tasks.
“This is about doing it at frontline level, involving ward managers and staff on the floor to say ‘How can we make improvements? What is going to work for your particular ward?’,” she said.
“It’s about helping ward managers make changes and improvements and, importantly, sustain that change,” she added.
Teams from each trust will get together to share their experiences as part of the process. Ms McIntyre will visit trusts in between the meetings to see how they are getting on and trusts will also be able to access expert help on particular aspects of e-rostering.
“The big success of this approach is people are learning from the peers so if they come in with a problem it is highly likely someone else has had that problem and dealt with it,” said Ms McIntyre.
“We go into work every day to make it better for patients”
She said the programme would include looking at ways to use the CHPPD metric, which measures how many hours of care are provided collectively by registered nurses and healthcare support workers per patient in a 24-hour period.
Some workforce experts have expressed concern about the metric, fearing it fails to recognise the complexity of care provided by registered nurses.
However, Ms McIntyre said she had found nursing teams did find it useful once they understood how it could be used effectively.
“It’s quite a new metric so it is about getting people to understand what it means,” she said. “While it is measured in total it is most definitely split between registered nurses and healthcare support workers, so we can have a look at skill mix.
“It’s a metric that’s benchmarkable but it is only one metric in the wider dashboard of efficiency, productivity and safety,” she noted.
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Each participating trust will pinpoint a key goal for their project. “It will be a mixture of things,” said Ms McIntyre, who led the introduction of e-rostering at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in 2007.
“Obviously, everyone’s under financial pressure at the moment so it’s about how we can use the resource we’ve got better,” she told Nursing Times.
“Some of that may be around decreasing agency spend and again that goes back to getting that roster right in the first place,” she said. “Some might be asking for help to sort out headroom in terms of annual leave and the best approach to flexible working.”
The first stage of the programme will finish in mid December. Ms McIntyre said the company should be in a position to publish findings early next year.
She said there was potential to expand the programme to different areas like mental health and community settings.
While the programme is for trusts using Allocate Software, she said a key aim was to share lessons learned with the wider NHS including trusts with alternative e-rostering systems in place.
She maintained that getting e-rostering right could help ease pressure on nursing staff and create “a better environment to work in”.
“We go into work every day to make it better for patients and we can ensure that happens by getting the right staff where we need them to be,” she said.