by Rotageek on 18 March 2022
For many years now, our healthcare sector has had to contend with mounting challenges. It is perhaps the most resilient sector in the world, but the pandemic has brought pre-existing issues into sharper focus.
With research finding that many doctors plan to leave the NHS in the near future, healthcare providers are having to rethink the way they manage their doctors
To arrest growing levels of attrition in the industry, NHS trusts need to find solutions that can help them tackle three priority areas of concern: staff shortages, workforce burnout and the need to comply with working time regulations.
The British Medical Association estimated that the UK’s healthcare sector was short of 50,000 doctors during the winter of 2021/22. The ratio of doctors to the general public is now 2.8 for every 1,000 – this is significantly lower than rates in the EU, and the gap continues to widen.
These numbers are already alarming, but when they’re framed within the context of massive waiting lists and backlogs in the wake of the pandemic, they become a major concern. It’s thought these backlogs will take years to clear, and as requests for appointments continue to rise, healthcare providers will need to find ways to shorten patient waiting times.
Healthcare has always been a tireless sector, but the strain placed on medical professionals over the last two years has pushed many staff to breaking point. The Royal College of Physicians recently reported that 20% of its members feel overwhelmed at work every day, and over half of them revealed they were asked to cover shifts at short notice within the past three weeks.
In an industry where staff shortages can have devastating consequences, doctors often feel compelled to plug the gaps, even when they’re exhausted. It is dutiful, honourable, and greatly admirable, but can only ever lead to workforce burnout.
The Working Time Regulations stipulate that all workers should be limited to an average of 48 hours of work in a week. If the working day is longer than six hours, workers should receive a 20-minute break on shift, as well as 11 hours of rest before their next shift begins.
In a sector that is reporting record levels of burnout – and with Trusts under pressure to alleviate the patient backlog – healthcare providers need to ensure doctors aren’t inadvertently exceeding these legal limits.
NHS Trusts up and down the country have been reckoning with digital transformation for years, under pressure to drive efficiencies wherever possible. The pace of change has been slow, but with unprecedented levels of instability within the system, these efforts are now being ramped up.
At the end of 2021, the NHS published an updated version of the What Good Looks Like guide for managers on best practices within the organisation. This framework focused on how digital transformation – working in unison with a digitally literate workforce – could revolutionise the industry. This is particularly true when scheduling doctors’ shift patterns.
E-rostering systems now provide powerful solutions that are giving schedule planners the visibility and flexibility needed to tackle shortages – and have the potential to compromise patient care. AI-based technology is also helping to ensure rotas can be completed in minutes – while also automating compliance.
Crucially, these flexible solutions are providing doctors with far more ownership over their own working arrangements, giving them the ability to amend their own schedules quickly. This is vastly improving doctors’ experiences by giving them more control of their work/life balance.
If you'd like to know more about how digital solutions are transforming doctor rostering you can read our whitepaper, Rethinking Doctor Rostering: Why greater visibility and flexibility will be transformative for healthcare in full here.