Service deliveryAdult Social CareEmbedding workforce optimisation in the care home psyche

Embedding workforce optimisation in the care home psyche

Charles Armitage, CEO of Florence talks about how social care organisations can overcome the recruitment and retention issues

The social care staffing shambles is a sad state of affairs. Almost two years since it was due to be published, care minister Caroline Dinenage has admitted that some Green Paper reform measures may take until the middle of the next decade to happen. Meanwhile, care and nursing homes are increasingly crippled by staffing challenges, with a Skills for Care report from September 2018 reporting over 30% workforce churn in the adult social care sector.

With no roadmap in sight, it’s a worrying time for passionate nursing and care home managers as our social care system hangs in the balance. So how can they take matters into their own hands when it comes to overcoming the recruitment and retention issues before they paralyse the sector?

Nurse shortage vs distribution

Workforce optimisation might sound like the latest buzz phrase, but it’s an approach which has the potential to overcome some of the hurdles nursing and care home managers face. A shortage of nurses and carers is often cited as being the major issue – and certainly, this shouldn’t be underestimated with ongoing Brexit uncertainty and given the projections around our ageing population. However, there is also a much less talked about problem at play. It could be said this moment in time, there are in fact enough nurses – but they are not adequately distributed where they are so desperately needed.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail

Many nursing and care home managers point to issues with allocating shifts amongst nurses on staff within their own portfolio of homes. It’s no surprise then that many care homes in the UK are using temporary staff as they scramble to backfill vacant shifts. A lack of planning infrastructure coupled with a reliance on traditional recruiters leaves managers suffering the consequences. Agency fees are seriously impacting their already stretched budgets, while the quality and continuity of care which is so central to the service they offer and values they hold dear is compromised.

Taking back control… of staff set up

It is clear to see that effective workforce planning – where nursing and care home managers use tools to optimise the resources available to them – is more important than ever. By looking at the bigger picture where a nursing or care home is one of multiple under the same group, nursing and care home managers can rota staff far more effectively. As a result, staff are happier as they know where they stand, feel more valued and engaged, and importantly are compelled to stay – leaving less of a need to have the recruitment agency on speed dial.

Of course, plans can go awry at the best of times which might mean nursing and care home managers find themselves with a shift they need to fill at short notice. What’s more, there are many fantastic nurses who just prefer to work flexibly as it fits better with their lifestyle and commitment. Turning to temporary staff has become a bit of a taboo in the sector – but it’s the high agency fees which are typically associated with it that has fuelled this negative perception. Social care can look to many other sectors for best practice examples of how flexible workers can in fact be complementary to the overall staffing picture.

New technologies fit for a 21st century workforce

So what is the alternative? While care will always be people-driven at the heart, the adoption of new technologies can play a big role in solving staffing problems. We designed Florence to help do just that – connecting care homes with those nurses looking to work more flexibly while driving down the high agency fees that have become all too common-place. It is now being used by nursing and care home managers as an additional tool in their armour – and getting great results when it comes to securing cost-savings and a more stable staffing set up.

Since 2017, 20,000 nurses have signed up to Florence. Our data shows that in the half a million shifts worked between April 2017 and March 2019, shifts posted at least a week in advance of their start date have an 94% fill rate. 43% were filled by nursing and care home managers making use of the Direct Invite function – a feature that empowers managers to offer their shifts straight to nurses they have worked with before and know to be a good fit in their organisation. These Direct Invite shifts are typically filled within 10 minutes of being posted.

A staffing solutions suite

In summary, there can be no one size fits all approach to solving staffing challenges. In order for the care sector to make its staffing model fit-for-purpose and more sustainable, nursing and care home managers need to embrace the concept of workforce optimisation and embed it in the care home psyche. Part of this will involve harnessing the new technology and platforms which can help put them back in control of their staff set up. The benefits of having a suite of staffing solutions is clear to see: it puts them back in control of recruiting and retaining highly skilled staff and frees up millions to reinvest in improving the quality and continuity of resident care.

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