For the first time in 106 years, the RCN (Royal College of Nursing) have decided to strike. Last week a ballot took place where more than 300,000 union members voted, demanding an increase in pay, better working conditions and normalised working hours, all in all citing concerns for patient safety.
At QHERE, we’ve been contemplating the real causes of this Strike and what effect a lack of workforce management in the NHS might have had on nurses over the years. We’re about to delve deeper.
It’s clear that the leading cause of nurses across the UK adopting the idea to strike is their low salary, and we can all agree nursing is a difficult job that is certainly currently undervalued. Let’s look at what this reduced salary has done to the nursing sector in recent months.
First, a staggering 40,000 nursing staff have left their posts in the last year (2021-2022). This has equalled 47,000 unfulfilled nursing posts across the NHS in total. But what does this mean for the staff that stay? This is when workforce management comes into play.
At this point, the nursing sector severely lacks staff, so the ones who stay in their posts are left to pick up the pieces. And we’re not just talking an extra hour on their shift here and there. On average, nurses in the NHS work at least 40 hours a week, with most working 12-hour shifts. As if that wasn’t hard enough, many are now doing 3x their normal workload during those shifts due to a lack of staff.
This enormous amount of pressure is detrimental to their mental and physical health. This is where the worry for the patients comes in. Tired, overworked, stressed-out nurses make mistakes more frequently, something which should be avoided, as much as possible, when it comes to healthcare in general, right? Nobody wants to make mistakes or have mistakes made with their care or care of a loved one.
But how can an improved workforce management system assist these nurses and make their working day run a little more smoothly and safely? Quite simply, actually.
As we already know, many nurses are already working long hours and are often rushed off their feet. But as the number of incoming patients is primarily unpredictable, there are periods when the workload is less, at least in some departments, and sharing staff across several clinics is possible with the correct system that takes into consideration staffs’ abilities, timetable, hours and more.
Confused? We’ll explain.
Imagine how many clinics are in a hospital, 10,30,50? It depends on the size of the hospital, of course, but not all clinics are constantly busy every second of every day. However, nurses are needed in nearly every clinic, even to do basic nursing tasks unrelated to the type of clinic.
With a structured workforce management system, you simply track each clinic’s busy and quiet periods. You then can place staff from a quieter clinic to a busier one, spreading the workload, reducing overworking and, therefore, the stress and pressure put on our nurses.
Currently, there’s no system available to the NHS that can fulfil these needs, but that’s not to say there won’t be in the future. We’re working hard behind the scenes at QHERE to create something that’s never been done before – to assist the NHS with workforce management, increase patient satisfaction and safety, and eliminate the risk of overworking our nurses.
We are entirely behind the Strike and believe it’s essential to get the basic necessities these nurses need, especially when it comes to paying. But, a better workforce management system could help retain nursing staff for longer, equalling a happy and healthy environment for all.
Are you struggling with WFM? If you want to learn more about what QHERE can do for your business, send us an email or book a demo today!