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I have never met a person who didn’t agree that approving rosters early is a good idea. 

It is one of those things that when you discuss its importance everyone nods in agreement. People get it, it makes sense. We know it’s fairer for staff giving them more notice of working patterns, we know it must help improve bank fill rates too, right?

So, why don’t we see all rosters approved in good time?  And some not approved at all?

|Rosters approved 4 weeks ahead of shift use half as much agency as those approved later|
Allocate Insight, June 2016

Could it be that we’re overly uptight about this and it doesn’t really matter?  The evidence suggests not.  The Allocate Insight team looked closely at approval data across the Allocate Insight benchmark this summer. They saw a very stark correlation between approval lead time (how many weeks ahead of the roster starting that it was approved) and agency use. In fact, rosters approved four weeks ahead used half as much agency as those approved only a week ahead.  So yes, timely approvals really do have a direct financial impact.

Of course the benefits are even greater if we consider how important the approval process is to staff themselves, giving them earlier visibility of their working via Employee Online and empowering them to make decisions about whether to do extra bank shifts.

Lord Carter’s report highlighted the variation on approval lead times and suggested acute trusts in England should target a six week roster approval lead time and at RCN Congress in June it was the second most popular question we were asked by nurses “Why can’t I see my off duty sooner?”

So if it is good for finances and good for staff why is the lead time to approve rosters still such a big issue for some organisations and what can you do about it? 

Watch our animation on approving rosters in HealthRoster
  1. Firstly, make sure both 1st and 2nd line approvers really understand the importance of the lead time to approval. Share the Allocate Insight data findings, and the importance of this for staff.  Make sure your policy sets the target number of weeks for lead time approvals.


  2. Secondly, make sure approvers know when they need to approve.  Publish a roster approval calendar.  Set who the approvers are in HealthRoster, and sign them up the ‘rosters requiring approval’ automatic email notification from RosterPerform.


  3. Now this one’s really important…monitor the lead times routinely across all wards and units. Distribute this to all and senior management.   Have a process to follow up and support staff that are not meeting the target….it really is the thing that will have the greatest impact.


  4. Understand the reasons why people might leave approvals until it’s too late, and offer help. When you see it happening ask staff why. Maybe they don’t know it’s their responsibility?  Sometimes it’s a simple matter of ensuring roster creators and approvers are trained so they fully understand they can approve a rostering that has gaps – reassuring them that the sooner it’s approved the sooner those shifts go to bank to be filled. You can use this animation we created to help spread the word with your roster approvers.


  5. Finally, consider whether you would benefit from Allocate Insight to help you routinely monitor this and other key metrics, providing you and your teams with unbiased analysis of the data, what it means, how it compares and what you can do to improve. 
Find out about how Insight is being used in the Allocate 90 day Rapid Improvement Programme

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