20th December 2017 Written by Skills for Health

iStock 92045921 LARGE 3Winter is a challenging time for UK trusts, bringing with it an immense amount of pressure on resources and staff. We take a closer look at how e-rostering can help hospitals combat the strain.

Every year trusts in the U.K. struggle to cope with the added pressure of the winter period. Findings recently published in a BMA report show that 94 of 152 trusts declared an OPEL (Operating Pressures Escalation Level) “of 3 or 4 on at least one day between the start of December and the Middle of March”.

Though increased demand over the winter is inevitable, there are steps hospitals can take to plan further ahead, easing some of the pressure on staff, reducing their agency spend, and in turn improving the overall experience for patients. One of these steps is introducing an effective e-rostering system.

Time is precious

In 2016, Lord Carter called for healthcare organisations to introduce more streamlined and effective digital working solutions, with the adoption of e-rostering a key recommendation.

In a recent survey, we found that 25% of people are still using Excel Spreadsheets or paper to do their rostering. This can cause many issues, including any last-minute changes or shift swaps can become confusing, and trying to keep up with changes can be time-consuming: time that could be used to plan ahead to fill any gaps and ensure the right skills mix is present.

Instant, accurate updates

When winter demand is at its highest, any gap in staff rotas can leave staff struggling to pick up the slack, with many hospitals having to turn to costly bank or agency staff to cope.

This is where e-rostering systems like Realtime Rostering can help. Realtime Rostering allows organisations to plan rotas up to a year in advance, with the flexibility to make changes in real time to deal with unexpected absences or shift swaps. Staff members are able to request changes at any time, and, once approved, they are instantly updated.

The busiest time of year

Though the use of agency staff cannot always be avoided, especially at this time of year, e-rostering can enable organisations to identify any gaps further in advance and take steps to fill them from within their existing staff.

Being able to plan further ahead and make the best use of current staff, rather than depending on agencies, has a beneficial effect across the entire organisation: positively impacting staff morale, budget and most importantly, patient care, at hospitals’ busiest time of year.

With the Carter Review further recommending that all trusts to switch to fully integrated digital systems by October 2018, it is hoped that e-rostering will form part of the solution, and staff may not find themselves under such intense pressure in winters to come.