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NHS trials flexible working app for staff to cut down on agency fees

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Apps which allow NHS workers to book themselves onto empty shifts to earn additional pay could be rolled out across the country to reduce reliance on “expensive agency staff”.

Under the trial, thousands of doctors, midwives and nurses at hospital trusts will be able to sign up to work extra hours using the apps, with payment for this top-up work potentially available to them within 24 hours.

The scheme, funded by the Department for Health and Social Care, hopes to improve flexible working for NHS staff and help hospitals respond better to increased demand.

Health minister Stephen Barclay said: “A modern NHS needs modern ways of working – and that means using the latest technology to give our dedicated staff more of a choice over how, when and where they want to work.

“We want to make sure they have the right work-life balance if they work extra shifts.

“This innovative trial is a win-win for everyone – it helps staff provide more consistent care for patients and gives them the flexibility they want in choosing their working patterns.

“It will also help the NHS reduce its reliance on expensive agency staff.”

More than 100,000 healthcare professionals are already signed up to ‘banks’, the central systems run by trusts which allow employees to sign up for extra shifts on top of normal hours.

The new trial will run through the existing banks at 15 trusts, enabling staff to use apps on their phones to receive notifications when shifts become available and sign up to work instantly.

Those who work extra shifts will be offered the option of being paid weekly and some trusts will allow staff to opt-out of pension arrangements so they can be paid more for additional work.

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust will roll out a dedicated mobile app and trial daily pay for staff who work extra hours.

Another app being trialled at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust will analyse hospital data in order to plan ahead for spikes in patient demand, sending notifications out to staff in order to fill shifts.

The government hopes the technology will encourage more nurses and doctors to sign up to their trust’s bank instead of with agencies.

The Department for Health and Social Care said the most successful elements of the apps will be rolled out across the NHS at the end of the trial.

Steven Keith, director of People at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, said: “We very much welcome working with the Department of Health and Social Care as a pilot site to enhance our medical staff locum bank and to continue our significant progress in reducing the use of high-cost agencies.

“We know from listening to our junior doctors that an app which they can more conveniently access from smartphones to accept additional locum shifts is important to them and we anticipate will improve our ability to fill bank shifts.”

London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust and East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust have also been selected for the trial.

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