4 lesser-known product features that support safe staffing

A doctor works on their laptop

Safe staffing has never been more important for the NHS. 

The healthcare system is currently facing record vacancies, burgeoning waiting lists, and prevalent staff burnout. Against this challenging backdrop, organisations must continue to provide the quality patient care and safe service delivery that communities rely on. 

Upholding safe staffing is essential to ensuring quality care is still delivered efficiently, without compromising staff wellbeing. 

This blog takes you through what safe staffing means in practice, and some of the lesser-known (but no less powerful) features we offer to support it. 


What is safe staffing in the NHS?


Safe staffing can have a lot of different meanings. Among other things, it can mean: 

  • Providing the infrastructure for staff to do their jobs safely (e.g. PPE, medical equipment)
  • Making sure care is delivered at the right time by the right people to uphold patient safety
  • Prioritising the best practices, technologies, and governance that secures safety for everyone
  • Supporting the health and safety of workers by adhering to minimum requirements for working hours, rest periods, and annual leave (e.g. Working Time Directive, 2016 Junior Doctor contract)
  • Protecting the organisation from fraud (e.g. timesheet fraud)
  • Maintaining staff well-being by upholding a culture of psychological safety (e.g. whistleblowing)


How can Patchwork Health support safe staffing?


Patchwork Health’s end-to-end workforce solution strengthens the safety of your staffing processes across the board. It offers complete interoperability between Patchwork products and a number of upstream/downstream providers. This gives you the organisation-wide clarity you need to resolve issues quickly, track and understand trends, and remain compliant with NHSE standards. Unlike when using fragmented systems, Patchwork Health keeps everyone on the same page – no more confusion and the risks it can create. 

In addition to the overall security our solution can provide, we have recently developed 4 new features targeted at further boosting safety for staff, patients and your organisation:

Check them out below!




According to the NHS Counter Fraud Authority, fraud costs the NHS an estimated £1.29bn a year

To protect against timesheet fraud, we’re introducing PIN (personal identification number) authorisation to the timesheet approval process. This is becoming the primary sign-off mechanism rather than the previous signature-based one, keeping your organisation safe from fraudulent activity. 

Best of all, our trial found that switching from signature authorisation to PIN authorisation increased the percentage of shifts that were signed off within 24 hours, making it both efficient and secure for everyone. 


Minimum enforced breaks


The law (Working Time Regulations 1998) states that when the working day is longer than 6 hours, all staff are entitled to a break of at least 20 minutes to be taken during their shift. 

To help ensure this happens in busy and high-pressured healthcare environments, Patchwork Bank has in-built system functionality that allows organisations to enforce these breaks for appropriate workers. Organisations can set the length of the break to be automatically applied to each shift, which serves the dual purpose of making clinicians aware of their break entitlements, and encourages them to take that break. 

That means you can be sure your staffing practices uphold contractual requirements, keeping your staff safe and your organisation fully compliant. 


Exception reporting


Getting exception reporting right is an underrated aspect of supporting your junior doctors’ well-being and promoting safe working practices. 

Exception reports should always be raised to indicate when doctors in training have been required to work outside of their agreed work schedule. For example, a clinician should electronically raise an exception report when they have worked beyond the parameters of their rota (e.g. staying late, missing their breaks). 

Patchwork Rota makes this process painless, ensuring clinicians are efficiently and fairly compensated for the work they do. Clinicians can raise exception reports directly from the roster, discuss the details with appropriate supervisors in-system, and ensure everything is tracked with Patchwork Insights integration and a complete audit trail. Plus, the customisable categories mean this functionality can be adapted to all staff groups. 

The process captures all necessary information within the workflow. For example, clinicians can enter the reason for raising the report, confirm whether the situation impacted patient safety, and (where enabled) request their preferred method of compensation. 

This removes all the existing barriers to raising an exception report, encouraging clinicians to actually raise them. In addition, Guardians of Safe Working have all the information they need to monitor compliance, drive improvements and further support safe staffing.

All this is included in Patchwork Rota as standard – no add-on modules needed. 


Learn more here. 


Fraud declaration statement


Like our PIN functionality, the fraud declaration statement provides another layer of protection against timesheet fraud. 

A small but mighty feature, workers are required to check the box to agree to the declaration before submitting a timesheet. This ensures they’re aware of their obligations and the consequences of non-compliance, reducing the risk of fraud and fostering a more transparent employer/clinician relationship. 


Further reading


The NHS has published a vast array of material on the subject of safe staffing. Perhaps the most comprehensive of these is the National Quality Board’s 2016 paper, Supporting NHS providers to deliver the right staff, with the right skills, in the right place at the right time.

You may also want to refer to this helpful list of resources, split into a range of areas. 

It looks like you're using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser for the best experience.