Through the research undertaken for this report it is positive to see the good work taking place across the NHS by embracing workforce optimisation technology and utilising the data it provides.

Although such forward thinking and innovation can take considerable effort, the outputs can lead trusts to identify and realise the full potential of e-rostering in supporting them to make real differences to patient safety, staff engagement and cost efficiency. Especially as NHS Improvement believe there is a £1.4 billion efficiency saving per year to be made by 2020/21, if all trusts follow best practice in e-rostering and job planning, as Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt announced at the NHS Providers conference in November 2017.

However, there is still room for more to be done and for the good practice, highlighted in this report, to become more widespread and consistent throughout the NHS. The key to this is ownership, understanding and shared responsibility of e-rostering from board to ward, which requires the workforce data to be used in a way that truly resonates with staff at all levels. Trusts also need to be aware of the balancing act they need to master between control and flexibility when it comes to workforce optimisation. This also comes down to the effective and open sharing of best practice across the NHS and internationally.

To help with these challenges of workforce optimisation the Workforce Deployment Expert Group has developed five recommendations for trusts in the UK of how to enhance the deployment and management of the NHS workforce. They are:

  1. Trust boards should assess themselves honestly against the workforce optimisation maturity index, to identify what they are doing well, what they could improve and what else they should be doing to ensure safest possible care for patients and financial efficiency with regards to rostering.
  2. HR directors working closely with nursing and medical directors should continue to digitalise all aspects of workforce optimisation, particularly those who have not embraced it fully.
  3. Encourage and enable ownership of workforce data and its utilisation throughout the trust, as this is the only way to achieve sustainable change. This may be done through appointing workforce data champions.
  4. Develop a robust roster policy which has clear defined roles and responsibilities for setting rosters from board to frontline staff, which will help ensure a dynamic approach to rostering.
  5. Those responsible for workforce need to embrace workforce optimisation in the context of the Five Year Forward View, moving away from the silos of staff in hospitals, but having systems that can support working across sustainability and transformation partnerships and accountable care organisations and systems.

As well as tackling the current issues facing the NHS, those being staff engagement and retention, reducing costs and improving clinical outcomes, it is important for trusts to start thinking about what is next for workforce optimisation. Such as:

  • Moving away from solely being an efficiency tool and becoming a mechanism for patient safety
  • Personalisation of e-rostering to meet the demands of individual staff members, striking a balance between flexibility and predictability depending on their personal requirements
  • The adoption of e-rostering across traditional boundaries, through the sustainability and transformation partnerships and accountable care organisations and systems.