The Carter Review, which has helped to set the agenda for how the NHS budgets and operates for years to come, placed great emphasis on the role that e-rostering should play. Indeed, e-rostering has been a real point of focus for trusts throughout the UK over the last couple of years.
But what is e-rostering? How does it work? And why has it attracted the attention of the NHS’ most significant policy-shapers?
The basics of e-rostering
Essentially, e-rostering is simply an electronic way of managing when staff are needed to work. But over the years a number of different systems have emerged, all offering different features and benefits.
Fundamentally, e-rosters allow managers to build their staff rosters for every shift more quickly and easily. An employee can complete an e-roster themselves, and then a line manager can confirm their attendance and accurately attach the correct pay rate.
Trusts typically find that even the most basic e-rostering systems improve efficiency and make it easier to manage their temporary staff. Effectively, they save money and are able to manage their workforce more flexibly, while staff themselves have more flexibility over how they choose and accept their shifts.
These are the basics of digitising staff rostering – and it has a big impact. But not all e-rostering platforms are equal…
Why advanced e-rostering systems can have an even bigger impact
One of the classic features of any breakthrough technology is that it typically keeps getting better – and opens the door for further innovations. And that’s very much the case for e-rostering platforms.
The very first iterations of digital rostering systems are very different to the newest players on the market, like our own platform Clarityroster.
Early e-rosters tend to require a lot of manual processing. And, as with any first-stage digital platform, they aren’t especially easy to use.
Clarityroster on the other hand has been able to learn from the weaknesses of older platforms and make e-rostering even more efficient. It’s the only demand-led, activity-based system, and multiple shifts and tasks can be fulfilled on a single screen – making it much quicker to use. It’s also optimised for different devices, which encourages staff to update their availability and select shifts wherever they are, whenever they want to. This ease of use generally leads to increased use, too.
Plus, software like ours is adapted to integrate with existing NHS technology, and allows for real-time reporting. This is one of the key innovations when compared to older models, as it removes the costly and time-consuming problems associated with numerous computer systems operating in isolation. Clarityroster is closer to the kind of ‘plug and play’ technology that we all increasingly expect in our daily lives.
You can find out more about how our advanced e-rostering platform offers advanced benefits in our case studies.
The future of e-rostering
Lord Carter stated that he wanted all NHS trusts to be using e-rostering technology by October 2018. And broadly speaking, it seems the vast majority of trusts are fulfilling that aim by having some sort of e-rostering system in place. But the issue seems to be a disparity of quality.
Recently, Matthew Swindells, the NHS’ National Director of Operations and Information, said the e-rostering systems implemented by the majority of trusts are ‘glorified spreadsheets’ that fail to enable the ‘matching of staffing to clinical need’ and fail to deliver flexibility for staff. It was a damning verdict that raises a very serious question: are trusts looking for the best e-rostering solution, or just any e-rostering solution?
It seems likely that many trusts aren’t fully realising the benefits of e-rostering at its best. For that to happen, we need improvements to legacy systems, an avoidance of monopoly suppliers, and a healthy amount of competition that leads to more innovation. Clarityroster is an innovative system that responded to healthy competition – which is precisely why it has such a positive impact on the bottom line of the trusts we work with.
Ultimately, the NHS is abuzz with talk of e-rostering for good reason. But this mustn’t be seen as a box-ticking exercise: this is a real and proven opportunity to improve outcomes for NHS staff, and NHS patients.