Ten million baby boomers will be heading into retirement in the next decade. The question is, are our health services ready for this rapidly ageing population? Not according to the “National Aged Care Staffing and Skills Mix Project Report”.
The size and complexity of the care needs of this ageing population are expected to be enormous. This will put a whole new set of demands on healthcare managers who are already working hard to get the most (and best) out of their available workforce.
The goal for most roster managers is to match the right staffing levels and skills sets to their patients’ differing needs. This enables them to allocate the right amount and type of resources in the right areas.
Take residential aged-care, for example. According to the “National Aged Care” report, it takes four hours and 18 minutes of care per day to ensure the safe residential and restorative care of aged-care residents. The skill mix breakdown to deliver that care comprises a registered nurse (30%), an enrolled nurse (20%), and personal care worker (50%).
Even though there has been a slight improvement in the recommended minimum care requirements for aged care, when you compare 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics Census at 85% of the estimated required full-time equivalent workforce with 2011 ABS data of 82%, we are still not delivering the right level of care for our aged population.
It all comes down to staffing levels and skill mix
Department of Health and Human Services Victoria Deputy Secretary Corporate Services Greg Stenton says workforce efficiency is about getting the right mix and level of resources to provide the services that are needed.
“The growing demand on health services means our workforce is pretty stretched,” she said. “The biggest driver is understanding patient demand – and rostering is a major component. Can you forecast your workforce needs and how do you make sure in a rostering and resource allocation sense that these resources are available?” Stenton says.
Michelle Fenwick, Executive Director People and Culture at Northern Health, agrees and says you need a system that can keep up with the demands and changes of a healthcare network over a 24-hour period.
“Allocate’s Rostering system meets our needs for today,” she said. “I need to be able to see what activity is coming through our hospital’s front door, and match those needs with staff skills – so the patient is seeing the right person with the right skill set at the right time,” Fenwick says.
However, she says, a system that gives her real time data so she can influence the real time movement of staff within the hour “would be great”. Perhaps Fenwick’s wish is being realised.
University Hospitals North Midlands uses Allocate to finesse patient/staff ratios
The University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust in the UK finessed its patient to staff ratios using Allocate solutions..
Chief nurse Liz Rix says the Trust faced several issues such as:
- high vacancies due to rapid growth
- high temporary staff use
- difficulties recruiting new staff to some areas
- a culture of focusing on staff numbers rather than need
Rix set out with her colleagues to establish a different approach to roster planning, which would help them meet patient need while removing peaks and troughs in staff availability.
“It was important for us to understand how we were using the totality of the workforce, and whether wards and areas were using resources effectively. At first we used Allocate’s e-rostering system, now we have other additional modules that give us the intelligence about our workforce which in turn enables us to meet the needs of patients.,” Rix says.
“We use Allocate’ solutions to give us an in-depth view of staff deployment across the whole Trust so we can make informed decisions in real time.”
Rix says they provided this data to one of their care units – their stroke ward – to drive improvement from the front line.
“Using this data, the local team took it upon themselves to redesign the service and reshape their workforce. As a consequence of having greater visibility of their workforce, they have now developed a more dynamic and response stroke service.”
Rix says the Trust has seen significant improvements in staff vacancy rates, staff turnover rates and staff agency rates, while achieving a staggering cost saving of over £250,000.
“Allocate’s systems gave us the insight needed to make these changes,” she said. “We used to have 80 theatre staff gaps, and now there are none. Allocate has helped us to change the way we are able to deploy staff and deliver care to patients,” Rix says.
What does the UK experience tell us? That we can look after Australians in the future.
Allocate has the technology to help our health services get ready for a rapidly ageing population, and it does this by providing greater visibility of the healthcare workforce. And yes, the software is sophisticated enough to give our healthcare leaders real time flexibility to move staff around – maybe even within the hour.