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In many ways 2016 was another incredible year for policy around NHS staffing and it may provide all the clues we need about what to expect this year.

You might think that incredible is a slight exaggeration, you may be thinking “Really? Post Francis staffing level reporting and the NICE guidelines were a more incredible year”. Well let me provide a small reminder of just a couple of the things 2016 gave us.

As the year started it did so with the dispute around the new Junior Doctors contract at the front and centre of many people’s mind. By August the contract was imposed and medical staffing teams were busy preparing for new rota designs.

While the agency cap was introduced in the latter half of 2015 the rules tightened in 2016 and many organisations were really working on making it work for them in the early part of the year; there was rarely a week that went by when agency spend wasn’t in the press.

Of course February saw the final report from Lord Carter on NHS Productivity (Operational productivity and performance in English NHS acute hospitals: Unwarranted variations) the report fully introduced CHPPD as a must-do metric for acute trusts, made it clear all trusts must eRoster and offered clear guidance on how to do it well. He even explored job planning of consultants and highlighted the improvements needed here.

I don’t recall going to a NHS director’s conference in 2016 where eRostering wasn’t mentioned. For me NHS Confederation’s Annual Conference in June was a key moment when the Secretary of State for Health highlighted its importance and named three of our customers as exemplar sites for eRostering. At NHS Providers in November he went further indicating that he sees not let up in the focus on staffing in 2017 and he reiterated the need for eRostering to be done and be done well.

Recruitment and retention remained the Achilles heel for many organisations who were just unable to recruit to the budgeted staffing levels and of course Brexit cast even more uncertainty. 

Safe staffing rightly remained high on the agenda with much debate about the impact of the nursing associate role and in December a report led by Prof. Alison Leary from South Bank University reinterred the links between staffing levels and outcomes. We really encourage our customers to read this report.

Like so many other aspects of 2016 the year didn’t end quietly for workforce policy on the 21st December NHS Improvement released two new draft documents on staffing in acute wards and learning disability services in community and inpatient settings both of which are now out for consultation until the 3rd February. These are essential reading. Benchmarking and CHPPD are central themes, to find out more join one of our webinars.

Directors please join on the 25th January 2017 11.00 register your place

Roster & Workforce managers and other related roles please join 30th January 2017 14.30 register here

In the next blog we’ll look ahead to 2017 and share some thoughts on how to get ahead!

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