The power of data – workforce planning in community healthcare

8th July 2021

Accurate capacity and demand data is the key to improving efficiency and safety in community care

Workforce planning in a community setting can be extremely challenging. Compared to primary and hospital-based services, there has been a lack of monitoring and transparency within community teams, which is the result of several factors, including:

  • the unpredictable nature of the work as community nurses respond to multiple unplanned visits every day 
  • The lack of joined up approach between multidisciplinary teams 
  • inadequate decision-making tools to allocate appropriately qualified clinicians to patient visits 
  • repeated restructuring of community teams, resulting in community nursing services being merged into hospital-based teams.

Community teams are vital. 90% of clinical care takes place in a community setting and the importance of their role has never been more evident than during the pandemic.

Community nurses provide patients with essential care at home, enabling them to retain their independence, autonomy and manage their own health journey outside of a traditional hospital setting. Community teams also relieve substantial pressure on first-line NHS services by reducing hospital admissions, facilitating discharges and supporting patients with self-care. An ongoing rise in complex health and social care needs in recent years, coupled with an increasing focus on place-centred care, has further increased the demand placed on community health and social care teams.

For community teams to drive efficiency, reduce costs and improve patient outcomes, it is essential that they receive adequate support with caseload and workforce planning to ensure that recruitment is focused on the areas where it is needed most, and existing resources (i.e., staff) are allocated in the most effective way.

Data is the key

Even prior to the pandemic, the NHS had committed to optimising the allocation of staff, to ensure better outcomes for patients and discharge them more quickly. This inevitably involves a heavier reliance on data to inform staff recruitment and training.

In keeping with the NHS Long Term Plan, increasing the reliance on data will help community teams to ensure that recruitment – and allocation of resources – is determined by patient need: ensuring that the right people, with the right skills, can provide care and help mould the NHS into “a service fit for the future.” The Department of Health and Social Care’s recent Data Saves Lives policy paper further outlines the vital role that data plays in reshaping health and social care.

Transforming the working lives of community healthcare teams

A simple, cost-effective, and immediate way in which community teams can obtain the data insight required for effective workforce planning is by collecting empirical data from healthcare professionals in the community.

Civica Scheduling (formerly Malinko) helps community teams intelligently plan resources to meet future demand by:

  • Identifying future gaps in capacity based on empirical data captured, such as planned versus actual visit time 
  • Easily redeploying staff with varying skill levels to where they are needed the most 
  • Automating the allocation of safe and fair caseloads 
  • Identifying the staffing establishment required to safely meet your patient demand 
  • Providing data to support evidence for recruitment 
  • Tracking and managing acuity in the caseload 
  • Understanding where staff training can improve service efficiency and patient care 
  • Realising the potential of e-rostering and e-job planning systems.

Civica Scheduling frees up time to care, as clinicians are not burdened with time-consuming, non-clinical tasks. Managers have the tools needed to optimise efficiency, providing community services with the same visibility and safety as ambulance services or inpatient areas. Full transparency across multiple teams allows managers to respond quickly and fairly to requests for unplanned visits by matching patients’ needs with clinicians’ skills and availability.

Not all community teams will need the e-scheduling feature, for example many therapists find it easier to manage their own caseloads, but the contemporaneous data collection via the app allows managers to fulfil the ambition of planning multi-disciplinary care around the patient in their own home.

Here is what some of our customers have said about how they’ve improved efficiency within their community teams:

Alan Hughes,

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board

The longer we use Civica Scheduling, it shifts from being just an e-scheduling solution and moves to a workforce planning solution which is where we can see significant benefits, and where the real savings can be made.

David McPherson,

Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust

Using the mobile app check in and out functionality to contemporaneously capture care contact time helps us obtain the empirical data about demand. Currently there is no other system that can provide this. Civica Scheduling’s intelligent scheduling engine enables our teams to auto schedule in line with the fairness, skill mix and utilising the staff hours as effectively as possible.

Mandy Davies,

Bolton NHS Foundation Trust

The benefits in terms of demand and capacity planning are huge. Auto-allocating within each team will demonstrate where capacity (available staff on shift) exceeds demand (patient needs), enabling staff to be allocated to areas where demand outstrips capacity. Adopting Civica Scheduling has enabled our workforce to become more agile.

There’s little doubt that accurate capacity and demand data is the key to improving efficiency and safety in community care.

If you would like to find out more about how Civica Scheduling could help improve performance in your community team, then get in touch.