Why It Is Crucial to Create a Healthcare Movement that Disrupts the Sector

Today, Joshua Sprigg, CEO of enferm, explains the importance of a correct recruitment strategy to ameliorate the patient experience in the NHS.

The current state of recruitment in the UK healthcare sector is not sustainable and is harming the very people it is supposed to serve.

We have a situation where the hospitals don’t trust the system because it is not traceable and transparent; and the nurses trying to source placements find that they can’t be sure whether the agency they are approaching actually has the ability to place and secure work for them. When they do find potential work, the manual systems and subsequent operational errors result in slow registrations and booking of shifts, repetitive document submission, lack of progression support and unresolved queries and errors with incorrect pay.

For me, the most frightening challenge is the burnout and mental health issues that are caused by this poor workforce management, as well as the hospitals’ lack of access to nurses, which results in under-staffed, overworked departments.  Going forward, I believe we have to create a system that allows for collaboration, transparency and knowledge transfer between hospitals and agencies.

This poor workforce management has a knock-on effect on the patient experience in the NHS, which is currently at an all-time low.  Before 2020, the NHS in England was already experiencing increasing demand and declining performance on several key waiting time measures. In many cases these pressures have increased following the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a research briefing on key NHS statistics for June 2022, The number of people on a waiting list for hospital treatment rose to a record of nearly 6.5 million in April 2022. The 18-week target for treatment has not been met since 2016. At least 5.8 million patients are now part of the NHS’s elective care backlog. Of these, 300,000 have been waiting more than a year and 12,000 for more than two years.

An article by the NHS Confederation states that the backlog is causing people to die before their time, with 86% of clinicians surveyed by the one association agreeing that some patients are now terminally ill due to either a late diagnosis or treatment delays.

Furthermore, the total number of NHS vacancies increased from 76,082 in March 2021 to 105,855 in March 2022 – an increase in vacancy rate from 5.9% to 7.9%, while the rate of vacancies in London specifically, is at a high of 10.9%

This inefficiency and chaos cannot continue and we must create an ecosystem that puts control into the hands of the nurses. A system that allows them to be in the driver’s seat of how they work, when they work and in which areas. Technology has the ability to allow for better forecasting of how and where nurses are working and where they are most needed. A system like this would drastically improve working conditions and staff shortages.

As a starting point, I want to see disruption that is focused on creating efficiencies and optimising manual processes. We need a system that offers automated registration and automated availability matching to demand, resulting in a self-serve marketplace. Then the system could expand to accurate and automated payments. This is just the start and is based on the customer service desires we have to meet.

Beyond that we have the human interaction element which is where enferm’s primary focus is, on customer service and community. 

I want to empower the people that do the work, not the suppliers who facilitate it. As a business, enferm is a means to access not a controller of access. This means that the decisions of how we are built and directed has to include the contributions of our community of nurses.

A system that truly serves the workforce will be transparent about where we are and what we are building for the industry. It will focus on supporting and encouraging individual growth and will alleviate administrative tasks and focus on the personal needs, such as access to a dedicated candidate manager for career or moral support. 

The end goal is for a nurse to be able to register and access the ecosystem seamlessly and to be fully in control of where and when they work, in a less stressful environment and in an automated manner. 

Furthermore, we see the future industry being run by a system where nurses and organisations work together for the benefit of patients, a frictionless and balanced ecosystem that is controlled and directed. This future will be enabled by companies like enferm, not run or directed by agencies or external suppliers. 

I would also like to see new technologies like blockchain being used to introduce an educational and social academy that addresses continued education for all – this will give medical professionals the opportunity to manage and design their career according to their individual requirements. Another area that can be addressed with regards to career and education is the reduction of the dropout rate of university students in healthcare pathways.

My vision for enferm is to challenge tradition and create a better future for those in healthcare service, to empower the workforce and build trust in healthcare recruitment, a trust which has not existed before.

Joshua Sprigg is a highly motivated change leader who plans to turn the healthcare industry on its head. 

To this end, he recruited a group of innovators and ‘outside the box’ thinkers and established enferm, a workforce management company in the UK.