Workforce Consultancy helping NHS trusts do more for less
Tasy Warn, June 2018
Article first published in the May/June edition of the National Health Executive.
The use of consultancy within the NHS is often associated with expensive private companies that have little specialist knowledge of how the NHS works. The reality though can be very different.
High-quality consultancy - particularly when we are talking NHS to NHS - can create positive change that pays for itself many times over. The simple premise when it comes to the workforce is that if healthcare organisations can find ways of working more efficiently, then staff resource can be redeployed towards critical frontline services rather than tackling complicated and time-consuming back office processes.
Since 2015 our Workforce Consultancy Service has been helping our NHS partners to do just that, largely using emerging technologies such as automation. Ensuring the efficiency of internal processes is imperative if NHS organisations are to meet the significant challenges they face, therefore our expertise is in helping managers to conduct transactions more efficiently in areas as diverse as TUPE transfers, electronic document management, skills deployment and process improvement.
There are two ways we do this. First, by creating tailored extended services for the NHS organisations we partner with and second, by supporting them in obtaining maximum value from the NHS systems they already have in place, such as the NHS Electronic Staff Record (ESR).
For example, last year we partnered with Norfolk & Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to support its implementation of a weekly payroll system, analysing the organisation's payroll requirements, extracting the correct information from ESR and updating default payroll settings as appropriate.
This one change to how payments are made has been transformative, enabling the Trust to compete with staffing agencies - and avoid the significant mark-ups they charge - by being able to employ its own bank staff directly and pay them on the weekly basis many healthcare workers are now becoming accustomed to. As a result, the Trust has been able to continue its work on reducing agency expenditure.
Elsewhere, at The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust, we have implemented our unique ePay technology for almost 6,000 employees. By ensuring greater accuracy in staff timesheets and expense claims - and eradicating around 1,000 paper forms every month - the Trust has forecast around £450k in cost savings over the next five years. This digital platform is now being used by around 50 NHS organisations - all of which are benefitting from the time and cost savings from automating a range of workforce admin processes that previously relied on paper winging its way around a trust.
Using our ESR Healthcheck model, we are also able to assist our partner organisations in utilising their existing systems in a more productive way, for example, by creating HR process maps using both ESR and other systems.
In this ability to dig into the more granular functionality of ESR, we are uniquely well-placed due to our recruitment of people that have worked with ESR since its inception who, as you might imagine, know the system and its capabilities inside out.
A typical example of how our team provides expert support in this area is by ensuring that NHS managers are using Self Service optimally. Due to the fast-paced nature of management in the NHS, initial training can often be superficial. However, as part of our consultancy service we empower managers to make the system work better for them, completing essential tasks more quickly, such as entering sickness details or completing online appraisals. Crucially, employees at all levels can also benefit from this greater control too - including the ability to view online payslips and P60S, book leave and manage personal information.
At an even more strategic level, our ESR education model is being used by trusts to enable them to understand the composition of skills in their teams in order to allocate resources efficiently. Our consultants are also able to provide services relating to managing Mass Organisation Change Process (MOCP) through our Organisational Support and Change Option, via which we provide support in areas such as TUPE Transfer, Technical Merge and Restructure.
Ultimately, our Workforce Consultancy Service is about using the right systems to help NHS trusts function more effectively in a wide array of employee-focussed areas. The result is that they are able to benefit from new systems, or better use of existing technology, that can help them further their organisational goals, whether that is reduced administrative spend or more effective utilisation of skills within the workforce. The result is always better ways of working, improved patient care and - the ultimate goal - the ability to funnel more budget towards the frontline, the place it is needed most.