By Dr Charles Armitage | November 27, 2020
A ban on staff movement between care homes is coming – but there’s help for care providers to ensure services are safely staffed.
Across the country, care providers are taking the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. From low occupancy to changing infection control procedures, the day to day challenges may seem endless. This is before you factor in the human cost of overworked staff and the individual personal tragedies.
The Government’s Winter Plan, released on Monday, emphasised a new requirement that many think may push the sector over the edge.
Banning staff movement
It is claimed that, in the first wave of the pandemic, staff movement between care services may have inadvertently led to spread of the virus. Whilst this fails to acknowledge the impact of PPE supplies being diverted to the NHS, absent testing regimens and the discharge of infectious residents into care homes, it is a point that Government is making central to its winter response.
Within the next couple of weeks, legislation will be passed that bans the movement of care staff between settings. Details are scant but care providers that are seen to bypass this law will likely incur the wrath of the regulator.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been speaking to hundreds of care providers across the country. Everyone is understandably concerned about how this legislation will affect their ability to safely staff their services through the winter. The endemic issues around recruitment and retention coupled with the impact of COVID-19 will place unprecedented demands on the sector.
Above all, the protection of residents and staff must be the most important focus. For providers, this means doing all they can to ensure that the staff that come into their home are safe to care for their residents.
However, with the increasing responsibilities placed on managers through the pandemic, the last thing they need is to spend more of their time frantically ensuring that they have cover.
A free solution
At Florence, we have listened to the challenges facing providers and have built a tool, available for free, to address these issues.
Staff Smarter is an app to help care providers instantly and safely fill their rotas with their own staff, preventing them from needing to use agencies. Managers are able to quickly publish all their rota gaps to their entire staff base. The app then alerts the right people for the shift and enables them to fill the gap.
The app is accessible to managers and their staff via a computer, phone or tablet.
What are the benefits?
- Save hours every week that home managers spend trying to fill rota gaps.
- Minimise the use of agency staff and protect vulnerable residents.
- Provide evidence to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) of the efforts you’re making to safely staff your service.
- Give staff members instant access to upcoming shifts via their mobiles.
How does it work?
Managers can set up an account at www.staffsmarter.co.uk where they enter basic information including their email address and care home name. They are then guided through a short set up process where they can customise their setup, invite staff and start posting shifts.
Every time a shift is posted, it is matched to the right staff members who are notified about the gap. Staff then log in and sign themselves up to extra work.
Should a staff member fall ill, for example, they can cancel their shift application within the app. This sends a message to their manager and opens that shift up again to the entire staff pool. A full audit trail within the app can also be used as evidence for regulators that every attempt is being made to fill shifts without going out to agencies.
We know that this can tangibly help care providers keep their residents safe and minimise their workloads and we want to spread the message. Users of Staff Smarter are seeing more than 80% of their rota gaps being filled by their regular staff with next to no effort from admins or managers.
The Florence team has received funding from government via InnovateUK to build this solution, and, because of the emergent need within the sector, we are offering the solution free to providers for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The challenges facing social care today are greater than they have ever been. It is only through the tenacity and grit of frontline managers and their staff that the system is still afloat.
At Florence, we are so very grateful for that effort and dedication. We are but a group of humble technology builders and nerds. But if we can, in some way, help support those that are at the bleeding edge of care, that is what we will try to do.