NHS SBS works remotely to ensure NHS salary payments unaffected by COVID-19

As NHS staff work heroically in the midst of COVID-19 – including thousands of former healthcare professionals returning to the frontline – the Payroll and Pensions Team at NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS) has worked remotely in April, processing new starters at a rate of around 500% more than usual and ensuring hundreds of thousands of NHS workers continue to be paid as normal.

Managing the payroll for almost 400,000 employees across 90 different NHS organisations is no small undertaking in normal times. But with COVID-19 forcing the NHS SBS workforce to operate from home, in April – for the first time ever – all 164 weekly and monthly payrolls were processed remotely.

In an additional challenge, problems with the national Electronic Staff Record (ESR) system, which is used across the NHS to process payroll, led to the platform only being available intermittently at the same time payments were due to be processed – putting significant pressure on the NHS SBS team to ensure NHS staff were paid.

As a result, the NHS SBS Payroll and Pensions Team worked out of hours – calling on resource from other teams – to ensure cut off deadlines were met and that NHS colleagues were paid without interruption

Whilst working hard to ensure business as usual, the NHS SBS team has also been supporting a national campaign by NHS Professionals to attract more healthcare professionals back into the service.

‘Stand Up, Step Forward, Save Lives’ aims to raise awareness of NHS Professionals’ COVID-19 Rapid Response service, which accelerates the bank registration process and moves qualified nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals to the frontline as quickly as possible.

This has led to NHS SBS processing more than 4,000 new starters a week on behalf of NHS Professionals, compared with an average of around 600 before the COVID-19 outbreak began – an increase of more than 500%.

Tasy Warn, Director of Employment Services at NHS SBS, said:

“Our top priority these past few weeks has been about safeguarding our own employees, whilst implementing plans to ensure NHS workers on the frontline of the battle against COVID-19 continue to be paid as normal.

“Moving our entire payroll and pensions operation to 100% home working was enough of a challenge, but with the unavailability of ESR at a crucial time in the pay cycle – and the extra capacity needed to manage new NHS starters – processing all of April’s weekly and monthly payments accurately and on time has required a huge effort.

“More than ever it’s impossible not to be inspired by the work of NHS staff in hospitals up and down the country. The motivation for our team at NHS SBS is around ensuring that pay day is one less thing our NHS colleagues need to worry about.”