The NHS workforce continues to be under pressure. According to NHS Providers, 97% of trust leaders feel that the staff issues seriously impact services and will slow down the rate at which the backlog after Covid improves. For example, from October to December 2021, 1 in 10 nurse posts were unfilled and 1 in 17 doctor posts empty. So how can digital platforms such as Patchwork help?
By developing a platform that quickly matches open shifts with workers, Patchwork is increasing the temporary staffing rate while simultaneously reducing time and money spent on filling these shifts. Patchwork works collaboratively with healthcare organisations to design a platform that works best with their established workflow to meet demand.
Medical staff can use the Patchwork app to meet their scheduling requirements, as it lets them more quickly connect to medical agencies and HR departments. All job documentation is successfully uploaded, and timesheets are managed through the Patchwork application to ensure prompt payroll processing. The app was developed by co-founder and CEO Dr Anas Nadar who explains how the service can help.
Let’s focus on the flexibility aspect because I think what you’re saying is that by allowing NHS employees to have more choice around how they work, they will feel more empowered and comfortable with working and this leads to better retention… It’s about being more efficient with the capacity. Is that right?
Well, we are also attracting more capacity from the wider community, but yes, you are right. To start with, we do provide more efficiency in the current capacity. However, a lot of the slack in the system is not captured because of poor visibility, poor data capture, lack of any clinical engagement with the clinical bodies, and a negative user experience with staffing. For example, many clinicians would say, “I’d rather not even bother picking up a shift because trying to find a shift, book it, get paid on time correctly, it’s such a hassle that I might as well not do it.”
So certainly, with purpose-built tech, you can capture quite a lot of slack in the system that’s probably missed. And with real-time data visibility, many hospital trusts are often surprised by how much can be created from the existing clinical workforce.
But, as I said earlier, we go beyond that. Patchwork can grow the network of available clinicians by doing the attraction piece, by bringing in clinicians from outside the trust, the career locums, and the agency locums who like to join the bank staff. Foundation year three and four year doctors, for example. And the doctors that are taking a year or two out of training.
Also critically, our collaborative bank capabilities are about tapping into the potential slack in the system in the neighbouring hospital trust. We know that the larger network, rather than five hospitals, each of them having 1 000 doctors on their bank list, having a single platform that has 5 000 doctors for the whole integrated care system means better workforce resilience.
Also, pressure ebbs and flows in every hospital. We know that. Being able to tap into a more extensive network of networks ensures that you are not only relying on your existing staff to pick up additional shifts but also tapping into the broader region of clinicians so that you become the flexible employer of choice. Therefore, one collaborative bank can work across the entire geography.
But at the end of the day, if you ask hospitals, they would tell you that more than 90% of all their vacancies are filled. So the question is, are they filled by bank, or agency, or a collaborative bank? Are they filled by the right clinician or the wrong clinician? So it’s about getting better efficiency from the system, better visibility, and correct the capacity/demand equation.
But of course, the long-term capacity issue goes beyond the conversation on specific hospital trust staffing. We need to move the discussion around how the NHS can train more clinicians within the UK and be an attractive employer for clinicians abroad. So I think that’s a much bigger question to be addressed there, but whilst that’s being addressed, we must ensure that we retain the existing staff that we have today. That we are addressing their concerns and their need for empowerment and ensuring that with better visibility on data, we’re able to capture any potential slack in the system.