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Additional Capacity During Nursing Winter Pressures

Company Background

Medacs Healthcare, the largest provider of healthcare managed service solutions in the UK, began working with Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in 2014. The Trust provides services to the 400,000 residents of Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre and North Lancashire, as well as specialist tertiary care for cardiac and haematology services across the wider region.

With increased hospital admissions and longer stays, the Winter Pressures period is recognised as a significant challenge for all trusts and health boards. Compounded by ongoing staff shortages and recruitment difficulties, the winter months can drive up costs with many trusts forced to increase the use of high cost off-framework agencies to supply the additional nursing staff they need to safely care for patients.

In the summer of 2018, the Trust prepared their Winter Resilience Plan and recognised that they would need to secure 26 full-time nurses to safeguard clinical services during this period and fulfil targets to open more beds and reduce A&E waiting times. In previous years, the Trust experienced staff shortages and was keen to prevent this, and to avoid the use of expensive off-framework providers.

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The Solution

Medacs Healthcare enacted an implementation plan in September with a clear focus on recruitment and candidate attraction as well as working with our approved suppliers to increase the number of nurses available to the Trust on the agreed ‘go-live’ date. 

A new rate card was created to specifically target nurses who would traditionally opt to work for off-framework agencies, offering an attractive but manageable rate for both the nurse and the Trust.

The additional nurses were assigned to specific wards for the duration of their assignment which allowed them to establish and embed themselves in the Trust, build rapport with colleagues and provide enhanced continuity of care for patients.

The Journey

Early planning, coupled with a longer lead-in time and more proactive approach to staff attraction were key factors to the success of this project. Working closely with the Trust’s existing team, Medacs Healthcare identified suitable candidates from our existing talent pool, attracted new nurses and engaged a supply chain of Trust approved agencies.

All nurses supplied were NMC registered and fully compliant in line with NHS Employers and CQC standards, with further pre-placement employment checks undertaken to ensure they had the required skills to deliver a positive patient experience. Dedicated on and off-site teams were mobilised to supply and support with rostering, onboarding, mentorship, clinical support and training for each nurse throughout their assignments.

Performance was monitored and reviewed each day to ensure that ongoing rota requirements were confirmed, additional requests could be made in good time, fill rates were correctly tracked and any operational or clinical issues were quickly identified and rectified.

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The Result

  • Supplied the equivalent of 26 FTE nurses and HCAs
  • Maintained weekly fill rates of over 90%
  • Sustained additional beds and demand
  • Improved the continuity and quality of care for patients
  • Met additional demand associated with unexpected absences/shortages
  • Relieved the pressure on substantive staff to cope with increased demand
  • Embedded agency nurses within substantive wards with regular working patterns
  • Avoided the need for high cost, off-framework agencies throughout the winter period

Medacs Healthcare significantly relieved our staffing challenges, providing additional nurses and HCAs, managing onboarding and achieving excellent fill rates. This vital support allowed us to keep additional beds available, avoid using high-cost agencies and safeguard patient care over the winter months

Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Deputy Director of Nursing and Quality 

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