So what are the key components in an efficient, low cost, shift schedule for the health service which also gives the shift workers a good work/life balance?
- Understand the workload. The workload is key whenever you are creating a shift operation. Your employees are there to cover the work. So you only want them there when there is work for them to do and you want them in the right place, at the right time, with the right skills.
- Employ the correct number of staff. There is no point in employing too few. In the long run that just leads to high overtime and agency costs. The Mirror reported that the NHS spent £5.5 billion on agency workers. Now you can’t save your entire overtime and agency budget but if you employee people at basic rate it will normally be a lot cheaper.
- What type of service do you need to provide. A key factor in health service operations is continuity of care. So you always need someone each day who was there the day before and will be there tomorrow. That way if there were any developments, each day there would be someone who could pass on the pertinent information to colleagues.
- A shift pattern for a good work/life balance. So you need to think about fatigue, time off, commutes, length of shifts, etc.
- Absence costs money. A lot of money. So you need a way of covering for absence, be that holidays, sickness or authorised leave. The best way to cover absence is in-house, because your own staff will always know your operation, equipment and staff better than an outsider. Also it is normally cheaper.