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What about support for healthcare staff?

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Dr Anas Nader talks to Health Tech World about the “desperately needed” support lacking for our healthcare staff in a time of crisis…

The cost of living crisis is having a huge impact across the UK. With many people struggling to pay their bills, GPs have begun socially prescribing heating and fresh food to those most in need. But what about healthcare staff themselves?

With the NHS facing its own significant challenges, and workforce shortages on the rise, a ‘social prescription’ for staff, which provides greater support and flexibility, is desperately needed.

NHS staff are working tirelessly to help reduce the impact of what is expected to be an extremely tough winter for the healthcare service.

Along with rigid shift patterns and many picking up additional hours to help meet rising demand, this is understandably leading many to experience symptoms of burnout.

First-hand witness to troubles

As a doctor myself, I have unfortunately witnessed many colleagues forced to step away from the careers they have worked so hard to build. This must be urgently remedied to protect those who still work in the NHS.

Increased funding and additional recruitment undoubtedly have a vital part to play.

However, a significant focus on boosting retention is also paramount to building a more sustainable healthcare workforce.

This means offering greater flexibility, increased shift predictability and comprehensive wellbeing support to help reduce levels of burnout and support current staff to remain in their roles.

Prescribing more flexible ways of working

We must make it easier for clinicians to balance their shifts with their own personal and professional commitments, to prevent more from having to leave.

For permanent staff, this includes increasing their involvement in the way their rotas are designed.

By introducing more intuitive, data-led systems that give managers a more comprehensive view of workforce trends, we can help them work more collaboratively on rota creation and take personal preferences and needs into account.

This will allow clinicians to safely share preferences on when and where they work.

For temporary staff, greater flexibility and shift predictability can be delivered by enabling organisations to pool clinicians across much larger regions and Integrated Care Systems.

Building more temporary staff banks, and increasing the number of collaborative staff banks to connect individual networks of locum workers, will help managers deploy clinicians more flexibly in line with patient demand.

Meanwhile, temporary staff will gain greater choice over when and where they work – making it easier for them to pick up shifts that suit them and help to plug staffing gaps.

Treating the root cause

To ensure these solutions are developed and deployed effectively, understanding the complexity of the challenges being faced is vital.

No doctor simply prescribes a medication based on an initial glance at a patient’s symptoms, of course. We ask questions and talk extensively with our patients. We do this to really understand and diagnose what lies at the root of the problem they are experiencing.

The staff need their own prescription

The same approach is needed to successfully tackle the NHS workforce crisis.

Talking to healthcare workers on the frontline is essential if we are to gain a true understanding of the unique challenges and needs we must address. Solutions can then be designed and tailored to ensure they deliver genuine, impactful change.

This has always been a key priority for our team at Patchwork Health. By speaking to and co-creating our solutions with healthcare staff on the ground from day one, we are able to ensure that the workforce solutions we provide give clinicians and managers alike the tools to tackle the challenges they are facing head-on.

Having a thorough understanding of the root causes at the heart of the workforce crisis is vital to delivering a successful cure.

Just as socially prescribed heating and food packages are helping keep people healthy throughout the cost of living crisis, practical, tailored measures to boost retention are needed to support NHS staff amid current shortages.

Protect against burnout

By giving staff the flexibility, predictability and support they need to balance work with their personal and professional commitments, and protect against burnout, we can prevent a mass exodus of valuable staff.

We can ensure maximum patient safety, and build a more sustainable healthcare workforce for years to come.

Dr Anas Nader, 2022

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