New rostering system enables more efficient care

Healthroster is a software package that is being implemented across Oxleas to help managers effectively roster staff more efficiently to cover service needs and therefore enhance the patient experience.

This feature is a warts ‘n’ all story of what it was like to implement the new rostering system for Antony Hawkins, the Clinical Team Leader for Danson Clinic at the Bracton Centre. Danson Clinic is a 17 bed rehabilitation clinic with a nursing staff of 29.

Antony, 40, first joined Oxleas in 1998 as a support worker. He left to train as a nurse and in 2008 came back to the trust as a charge nurse working at The Tarn in Oxleas House, Woolwich. The father of two, who lives in Falconwood, got married a few weeks ago on New Year’s Eve. Before he joined the NHS he worked as a trainee chef, a solicitor’s clerk and at a firm of chartered accountants.

Antony is full of praise for the new piece of kit. He said it really does save a lot of time: “It gives me information at the touch of a button that it would have taken hours to get in the past. For instance if a member of staff came to me asking for more weekend work adding that they think they are not getting enough weekend shifts (staff can earn more for weekend work) I can instantly show them how many weekend shifts they’ve worked and where they are in the weekend shift league table. It makes for a fairer roster system.”

Danson Clinic was asked to pilot the electronic rostering system as part of the first wave of implementation last year and was the only mental health inpatient unit doing so at that time. It wasn’t all plain sailing though. Antony takes up the story: “The planned training was attended by me and my three trusted charge nurses. The training was difficult as this change in the way we worked was second only to the implementation of RiO [our electronic patient records system] so the training manual felt a bit like fumbling in the dark. We did manage to achieve our objectives and set our clinic ‘rules’ and so were set to go.

“The first couple of rosters took me an incredibly long time as I attempted to manage the change in a manageable, bite-size way that would allow my team to adapt and accept the system. I encountered various ‘teething’ issues including finding vacant duties, accommodating zillions of requests and the system deciding that it was OK to allocate ward manager duties to everyone from my house-keeper to the maintenance men. With the e-roster team’s support and a good deal of patience I was able to begin to generate rosters that looked OK and most importantly managed my nursing numbers to effectively manage the clinic.”

There are a number of benefits for managers that use this type of e-rostering. It can make it simpler to manage annual leave, sickness and absence. It provides effective use of staff within and across different sites and of course a reduction of administration time in organising rostering. As far as employees are concerned it is easier to request annual leave and study days. It promotes the fair allocation of requests, leave, weekends and shifts and tracks the hours worked and time owed to each member of staff. It can provide more accurate information for processing in payroll departments.

Antony again: “I am now able to generate a four to eight week roster period in a matter of minutes - 120 of ‘em - and am beginning to trust and rely on the benefits that the system can bring. There are still ‘issues’ that I am becoming more able to understand and many relate to the specific needs of my clinic and how I can adapt the system and its rules to suit Danson.

“It is important to remember that each clinical area is different with different ways of working and different objectives and the quicker you can understand e-rostering and tailor it to meet the needs of your area then the better.

“I am now able to access much information that is of great benefit when managing a clinical area with a number of clinical staff. I can process reports relating to annual leave, sickness, time-owing, weekends, night duties, requests made and much, much more.  I am also able to analyse a roster and focus on areas that are currently of vital importance including budget and effectiveness.

“The system is also linked directly to temporary staffing so I am able to book and manage bank shifts with greater ease and efficiency. The plan is also to link directly to payroll so the need for monthly returns and timesheets will be negated - wooohooo!

“In short, the system has enabled me to become more efficient in managing my nursing staff and their roster needs and helped me deliver more effective and efficient clinical care.”

Published on 20th January 2012