Waving goodbye to staffing challenges at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust

Leaders at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust were experiencing the sort of temporary staffing problems well-known to colleagues up and down the country.

“Going back to how we were before is unthinkable” - Medical director, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust

They knew agency spend staff was swelling in the context of a limited and unhappy pool of bank workers. Yet it was incredibly difficult to get a breakdown of precisely what was being spent where.

A common problem and a need for action

What was clear was that an annual bill of £12.1m for medical agency staff was not sustainable, particularly in the midst of nationwide pressure from regulators and politicians to cut such expenditure. The trust’s directors and managers knew action was needed.

The solution they turned to was an agile software platform co-created by a former NHS anaesthetist. Circular Wave, which has been fully customised for the organisation, has made it possible for the trust to fully and capably manage its own staff bank.

The result: a significant increase in bank fill rate, a fall in agency fees, and a sophisticated understanding of the trust’s temporary staffing situation.

An elegant, collaborative solution

The easy-to-install Circular Wave platform consists of a web app for administrators and mobile apps for candidates. • Administrators use the web app to detail available ad hoc shifts as well as longer term temporary vacancies • Candidates use a mobile app to register for the staff bank, to browse and book into shifts, and to complete timesheets. As soon as a vacancy is put into the system, they are notified.

The software automatically checks professional registration and Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) status in real time. It automatically generates compliance reports on temporary shifts for NHS Improvement too.

And because it integrates with the trust’s electronic staff record (ESR), payments to staff are rapid – made weekly rather than monthly – with national insurance and PAYE deduction at source.

Circular Wave’s support team have responded to any queries within 20 minutes, and its software developers have collaborated closely with trust staff to ensure the platform is precisely suited for the organisation.

By working hand-in-hand, it has been possible to achieve a rapid transformation on temporary staffing at the trust.

An array of benefits for trust and staff alike

Before the trust starting using Circular Wave, the organisation had no medical staff bank of which to speak. Within three months of introducing the platform, more than 95% of eligible medical staff were registered with the bank.

A reduction in dependency on agency staff

Within six weeks, 64% of temporary vacancies were being filled by bank staff. At the point at which the project started, only one per cent were.

Significant cost savings

By reducing dependency on agency staff and helping County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust create its own thriving staff bank, Circular Wave helped the organisation save substantial administrative costs.

“We are probably the only trust in the North that knows exactly what they’re spending on temporary staffing” - Finance director, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust

Financial transparency and understanding

Using Circular Wave means gaining complete visibility of your temporary staffing spend. Data can be easily audited, allowing leaders to quickly and easily gain a picture of exactly what is being spent and where. At County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust, it revealed that previously as much as £1,600 was being spent on agency fees to cover a single surgical shift.

A clear, fair and highly competitive pricing model

Candidates can download the Circular Wave app free of charge. For trusts, there is a single low annual system cost, a set-up fee and then a subscription fee per user (whether candidate or administrator).

Costs tend to be a lot lower than those with competitor systems, not least because the platform is not an agency in disguise. There is no commission to pay each time a vacancy is filled.

It’s one of the reasons regulators are being so supportive of the platform and that staff at County Durham and Darlington say life without it would be unimaginable.

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