High impact action 3: Manage your workforce, establish a sustainable supply

Nurse on ward

24 / 3 / 2014 1.16pm

When examining agency spend, it is important to take into account wider workforce measures and issues, as these can impact upon agency usage.

These include looking at the effective use of the substantive workforce, use of overtime and use of internal staff banks. Information relating to sickness absence, labour turnover, time taken to recruit and shift patterns are all important measures to consider.

Better use of the substantive workforce and ensuring work patterns are more aligned to patient need can result in a reduction in the demand for temporary staffing. Technology such as e-Rostering programs can ensure that shift patterns and employee rotas are best matched to periods where demand on the service is high as well as offering employees more control over their working hours.

In many cases a large part of this action is rooted in ensuring that recruitment and retention procedures are robust enough to mean that the requirement to cover vacancies with agency staff is minimal.

Specific actions that you can take to manage your workforce effectively include:

  • Ensure that the substantive workforce is as productive as possible.
    When setting staffing establishment figures for wards and departments within your organisation you should ensure that you are using your substantive workforce as effectively as possible before looking at using external agency staff. This could be through looking at new ways of working and through benchmarking your workforce with both internal and external comparators.
  • When vacancies do occur, consider whether a direct replacement is required and if they are, explore whether part time staff would be interested in increasing their hours before bringing in temporary staff.
    Managing the substantive element of your workforce is hugely important when looking to manage your expenditure on temporary staff, especially as one of the most common reasons for booking agency employees is to provide cover where there are vacancies. By looking to increase the hours of part time employees (or even explore alternative ways of working), trusts can reduce the amount of money spent on procuring agency staff and often improve the quality of service offered by increasing the hours of employees who are already familiar with the organisation and it’s ways of working.
  • When a permanent vacancy does occur, explore the option of using the redeployment register.
    As with increasing the hours of part time staff, by looking at redeploying staff already working in the organisation NHS trusts can ensure that they are utilising skills, knowledge and experience already within their organisations and ensuring that they use the most cost effective methods for staffing their organisations.
  • Look at when your substantive staff are working, it can be more expensive to use temporary staff at evenings and weekends.
    One way of minimising expenditure on external temporary staff is to review when temporary staff are being used, and to analyse whether the substantive and temporary workforce are being used as effectively as possible.
  • Ensure that you are not re-employing your own substantive staff back into the organisation to work on a part time basis.
    Rather than re-employing their own staff back into the organisation through external agency providers, NHS organisations where possible should look to ensure that staff are recruited back into the organisation either through a bank arrangement or through increasing their existing hours which is likely to prove much more cost effective.

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