East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust was formed in April 2000 with responsibility for managing Hertford County, the Lister and the QEII hospitals. In April 2005, the Trust also gained responsibility for managing the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre – one of the country’s top five cancer treatment centres, providing specialist radiotherapy services.
The Trust treats over 500,000 people each year, with the A&E departments seeing around 130,000 people annually. Annual income across the Trust is £290 million.
Of the 5200 staff across the four hospitals, on average the Trust has 300 employee relations cases open at any one time, the majority of which are sickness and absences.
Employee relations at East and North Hertfordshire
Previously, the Trust was outsourcing the management and recording of its employee relations cases to a specialist health and social care law firm, who were using an in-house paperless tracking and monitoring system.
Ronnie Davidson, Head of Employee Relations at East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust explains: “The challenge we had with outsourcing our employee relations was around communications with our outsourcing provider and understanding the system they were using.”
Cloud software for Employee Relations
In November 2014 the Trust began reviewing Employee Relations [ER] software to find a replacement, one that could be used internally by HR and senior managers, as well as HR advisors. The Trust built an employee relations team ahead of implementing ER Tracker, which went live in February 2015.
“We were looking for something that wasn’t overly complicated and was user friendly. We needed to be able to record and log ER cases on a daily basis, be able to access those records easily, and report quickly and accurately when needed,” comments Davidson. “The implementation went very well – after a few configuration requests when we first rolled out ER Tracker we’ve found, on the whole, that it’s very intuitive. If something wasn’t quite right, we’d ask and the professional services team would deliver.”
Davidson adds: “We didn’t have any concerns about ER Tracker being a cloud product – we wanted it to be as user friendly as possible for the team, who are able to access the system from anywhere.”
The Information Governance team with East and North Hertfordshire meant that internally, the human resources team had Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that they were measured against; e.g. number of days cases were open, how long each stage took, specific divisions or departments involved in cases. One KPI the team needed to adhere to was to resolve each case within 90 days.
Ronnie says, “Cases are closing much quicker now. We’re able to identify blockers in cases much quicker. Each advisor can pull out specific reports and see an overview of the total number of cases at any given time.
ER Tracker also alerts our advisors via email of any outstanding actions or deadlines that may be coming up, but it’s as easy as logging in and checking on the case steps that need to be actioned.”
Freedom of Information Requests
In addition to internal KPI’s, the Trust must also be able to meet requests from unions and Freedom of Information (FOI) requests on details such as flexible working cases and disciplinary procedures.
The Freedom of Information Act gives the public the right to ask for information from public authorities including the NHS.
FOI requests are frequent for the Trust. ER Tracker’s simple to use reporting function makes generating reports and compiling relevant data easy – enabling compliance with these requests much easier for the Trust.
Analytics to improve employee relations
“The key thing we wanted from ER Tracker was to be able to identify patterns in our ER cases, such as which divisions have the highest absence [i.e. medicine], length of time cases are open for, or if certain case types are taking longer to close than others, for example,” comments Ronnie. “We need the employee relations team to be able to drill down into KPIs and use ER Tracker to compare different metrics, use heat maps and help us identify how we can improve employee relations across the Trust.”
Currently in the data collection phase, the Trust plans to use the data to identify patterns to establish where skill gaps may exists, and to understand where and why cases are occurring – ultimately to enable the Trust to put preventative measures in place, such as staff and management training courses, to reduce future cases.
On Selenity ER Tracker
After building the employee relations team, East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust were working to tight deadlines.
Ronnie explains, “I was working at a different Trust so whilst I didn’t have a day-to-day view of the setup and configuration of the service, I kept in touch with the new team and the feedback was that the roll out was going very well.
Allocate came on site and delivered workshops for staff. After a few sessions the team were very comfortable using the cloud service and after a few requests early on we’ve been able to use the system without much help, it’s very intuitive.
East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust were one of the first Trusts in the UK to implement the ER Tracker solution.
Ronnie concludes, “The customer service has been very good, as a company they’re all very responsive and Andy Shettle [senior product manager at Allocate] has been particularly helpful, not only in getting us up and running, but providing ongoing help and support.”
- Improves and simplifies recording and reporting of employee relations cases
- Increases visibility and reduces case management errors
- Freedom of Information and compliance requests easier to respond to
- Allows for employee relations analytics to take place to reduce further cases