4 key elements to look for in a best-in-class e-rostering solution

Digital workforce solution

Smart rostering is set to play a vital role in the digital transformation of the NHS. In this article, we explore the 4 key elements to look for in an effective e-rostering solution, according to NHS experts.

Our health and care workforce is undoubtedly the NHS’s greatest asset, yet the process of creating rotas and managing staff to meet patient demand is far from straightforward.

NHS staff make critical decisions on a daily basis, so it’s essential that they are empowered with the right workforce solution to maintain compliant staff schedules and deliver care to an increasing backlog of patients.

To understand just what goes into achieving this, we brought together health and care leaders from across the UK for our series of smart rostering innovation sessions. With their expertise and insights in mind, our experts at Patchwork have created this guide which outlines the 4 key elements that make up a best-in-class NHS smart rostering solution.

In this article, we will outline how an effective NHS workforce solution can support organisations in tackling the following challenges:

  1. Poor visibility over rostered staff across an organisation
  2. Clunky, outdated tech which creates complexities, rather than resolving them
  3. Complex, manual rostering processes which reduce efficiency
  4. A lack of partnership between organisations and suppliers, leading to suboptimal results

1. The issue: Poor visibility over rostered staff across an organisation

As a rota coordinator, having a thorough understanding of your substantive, bank and agency staff is key to keeping your service safely and compliantly resourced.

However, staff are too often left juggling multiple workforce solutions to manage different staff groups, making this oversight at best complex, and at worst impossible. With information siloed across any number of different systems or manual spreadsheets, this lack of clarity surrounding vacancies can mean organisations run the risk of operating with insufficient staffing levels.

The solution: NHS smart rostering software built for all staff groups, from the ground up

To combat this, we recommend a workforce solution that has been built for the NHS, right from the start.  It should meet the unique requirements of each and every staff group, offering complete visibility of your entire workforce and accompanying data.

With this increased quantity, quality, and availability of crucial information, a best-in-class smart rostering solution can truly empower staff with all of the information they need to improve their service, without the headache of logging into multiple systems. From identifying areas for improvement, to easily monitoring trends, the right workforce solution can be truly transformative for an organisation.

2. The issue: Clunky, outdated staffing software which creates complexities, rather than resolving them

Creating rotas and managing rosters is an inherently complex task. Rota managers are responsible for coordinating leave requests, negotiating slot-sharing, handling exception reporting and more – all whilst maintaining safe staffing levels and ensuring patient demand is being met.

All too often, staffing software for healthcare that should help to handle these complexities becomes another complexity in itself. Clunky design, outdated systems, and a convoluted user interface can unnecessarily complicate already detailed processes, resulting in frustrated staff and avoidable admin errors.

The solution: Cutting-edge smart rostering design

To help solve this, when you’re looking at adopting a new e-rostering software, we recommend focusing on providers that put innovative and intuitive design at the forefront, and to opt for a workforce solution that has truly invested in delivering a high-quality experience to its users.

With rota managers performing critical actions on a daily basis, it goes without saying that the system they use must understand the intricacies that come with rota creation, without leaving users to shoulder that burden.

From our experience, the best staffing software will support users with managing workforce complexities and deliver an intuitive and seamless experience  –  ultimately leading to greater employee satisfaction, wellbeing, and retention.

3. The issue: Complex, manual rostering processes which reduce efficiency

As a rota coordinator, on any given day you are likely to ask 2 key questions of your workforce:

  1. Is my service well-staffed?
  2. What is each clinician doing on a particular day?

These questions are fundamental to the safe and efficient running of an organisation. However, when staff are required to spend time hunting through paperwork or jumping through various hoops on a computer to find answers, they are unfortunately using time that could’ve been better spent on higher-value tasks – through no fault of their own.

The solution: An NHS smart rostering system that enables quick, informed decision making

An effective e-rostering solution should empower you to find all of the answers you need effortlessly, and efficiently.

Returning to our 2 questions above, a workforce solution should include an easily accessible activity view, as well as a worker view, so you can find out key information in the specific format required to make decisions quickly and confidently.

You may also want to consider the other ways a system can streamline usually inefficient everyday tasks. Shift swapping, for example, is currently a rudimentary process involving a lot of back and forth on and offline between clinicians and rota coordinators. A best-in-class workforce solution will come equipped with faster, digitally-enabled processes to replace these outdated manual tasks, driving improved efficiency across the board.

4. The issue: A lack of partnership between organisations and suppliers, leading to suboptimal results

Rolling out a workforce solution successfully is no small task. Yet an issue NHS leaders have raised far too often is tech providers handing over their staffing software to healthcare organisations and vanishing, leaving staff to manage implementation, training and onboarding alone.

Such relationships, that lack the partnership central to ensuring a new smart rostering system truly succeeds, are unfit to meet the unique demands of the NHS. When tech companies fail to provide all-important pre and post-implementation support, these new initiatives can fade out before they reach their full potential.

The solution: A smart rostering partner, not just a provider

To ensure that your new NHS workforce solution drives genuine transformation across your organisation, we recommend finding a partner, not just a provider. 

A best-in-class solution should go so much further than tech alone. When searching for a smart rostering system, look out for a provider that:

  • Takes the time to understand your unique processes and policies pre-go-live
  • Has the in-house expertise to provide a consultative approach to recommend and embed best practice rostering and rota planning
  • Assists with migrating information over from your legacy systems
  • Invests in their own teams to lead the implementation, training, and onboarding process for your workforce
  • Works with you beyond go-live to continuously drive improvements and adoption
  • Is committed to continually innovating with your feedback
  • Replaces the traditional upgrade every few years with more agile, frequent improvements

Ultimately, working with a partner that is truly invested in forging long-term, collaborative relationships will pay dividends to your team and organisation.


Used the right way, a smart e-rostering solution that prioritises the 4 key elements outlined in this piece can transform an organisation, driving greater employee satisfaction and retention, and empowering staff with the information to make impactful changes on the frontline.

Learn about Patchwork’s NHS smart rostering solution here.