Rupert Clarke, Programme Director at Allocate Software, writes:
The UK Covid-19 vaccination programme continues to gather pace. As I write this post more than 15 million people have received at least their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccination, marking a significant milestone for British history’s most extensive vaccination programme. The expectation is that the programme will be expanded to the rest of the adult population by autumn, taking the total number of vaccinated people to an estimated 52.8m (UK Covid-19 vaccines delivery plan) with further questions around a potential need for annual boosters.
This is a real testament to the NHS, its people and indeed to the incredible amount of goodwill from staff, some returning to work from retirement, and volunteers going the extra mile to deliver the vaccine. Organising the programme’s workforce and ensuring the right people are in the right place, at the right time, has been crucial to the successful delivery of this extensive project. The team at Allocate has seen first-hand the commitment, innovation and pace from roster and rota managers as they planned new schedules scratch in HealthRoster bringing together staff from multiple organisations working in new locations. What would normally take weeks and months has been delivered in days.
Preparing for the long-haul
As well as the unparalleled professionalism and goodwill from countless teams involved, the very fabric of the NHS, universal healthcare and our network of GPs, community providers and hospitals working together with local government and the third sector has made the rapid rollout possible. Even so we can’t ignore that as has been the case throughout the Covid emergency it has been people that have made the difference. People taking extra shifts, paid and unpaid, working a little longer after a shift has ended, cancelling leave and stepping in with hope in their hearts to help in a crisis. People have been central to the programme’s success so far and as we face the possibility of a prolonged national vaccination programme with ongoing boosters for all in response to new variants we will do so with an exhausted workforce and already well documented gaps. Raising the question as to how one will support staff and source staff longer term to sustain and accelerate delivery if required.
Some organisations are looking ahead and preparing for this next stage of the challenge. One of the things I have observed is how they are thinking differently about shared banks. Shared banks, sometimes called collaborative banks, are not new. With temporary staff only accounting for 30% of all shifts they are also not a panacea, and this is where we see the biggest shift. Shared banks are no longer about ‘shared temporary workforce’. They really are evolving into a shared pool of substantive, temporary even volunteer staff from multiple organisations and indeed sectors.
This shift from temporary to flexible, from big IT change projects to agile simple technology and practical delivery and people focused collaboration is making a difference. As we have seen throughout the pandemic the time to implement and adopt technology as radically reduced, what once took months now takes just a couple of weeks. Shared banks are helping open up new sources of staff, reducing the admin burden on teams and in many ways most importantly as we settle in to the potential vaccination marathon they support a wide church of staff with control and flexibility while safeguarding to ensure staff are not working unsafely.
Are they the answer to everything? Absolutely not. They are however part of the solution, they represent all that is positive about collaboration and local cooperation, and as we create more and more networks extending beyond current physical boundaries, it is clear this is much quicker and simpler do then perhaps was once imagined.