NHS trust launches £60m software procurement to improve staffing efficiency

Chester healthcare provider needs some tech to help wrangle its temps

The Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is launching a £60m procurement in the hope that it can better manage staffing with the magic of software.

The proposed framework is set to be open to other NHS organisations, and offer "a range of tools and solutions to deliver measurable improvements in all areas of workforce management," a tender document said.

The winning bidder is set to "act as partner to support and facilitate a workforce transformation journey," it said.

Ah, the transformation journey, that ill-fitting phrase used by breathless marketing types. Apparently, in this case it will start with a "focus on temporary workforce spend; controlling agency usage, developing stronger staff banks, facilitating collaboration and providing access to actionable workforce intelligence.

"The journey will then progress through a range of tools and solutions to help clients to optimise and transform their workforce." At which point the NHS workforce and temporary staff may be forgiven for asking, "are we nearly there yet?"

Flippancy aside, the trust, under pressure from the second wave of COVID-19 that has hit North West England, is looking for a system that manages data and offers insight into staffing trends. It seeks national, regional and local benchmarking; root cause analysis tools to identify workforce demand and risks; and to "facilitate the deployment of people programmes to tackle identified causes of workforce demand and risks in the areas of retention, wellbeing, recruitment and absence management" among other requirements.

The result of the technology investment will - possibly - be "a workforce resourced through the most cost-effective route, leading to more patient care hours and/or reduced costs" along with other goals.

The framework is set to last four years.

Along with the Russian Army and the Indian Railways, the NHS is one of the world's largest employers and has been dogged with the problem of managing its workforce efficiently, particularly with regard to temporary workers. In 2016, spending watchdog the National Audit Office said the £3.3bn spent annually on the supply of doctors and other clinical staff was managed in a seriously flawed and "fragmented" manner.

Those with a keen eye for NHS HR system investment will notice that the proposed framework bears a passing resemblance to a £30m tender for HR and people systems, placed by NHS England in September.

But there are differences. NHS England is looking for "eRostering, job planning and temporary staffing software solutions" to help the service adapt to new ways of working made necessary by the introduction of Integrated Care Systems under the framework "Health Systems Support Framework – Workforce Deployment Solutions".

Meanwhile, the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust's framework comes under the moniker "National Framework Agreement for the Provision of Workforce Transformation Solutions". Catchy stuff.

The deadline for bids is 18 January 2021. ®

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