Optimising your NHS staff bank for financial savings

The temporary workforce is an essential part of keeping the NHS safely staffed. Patient demand is constantly rising, circumstances evolve, and last-minute shift vacancies can strike; being able to react to these changes is critical to ensure patients still receive high-quality care in every situation. 


However, plugging gaps with temporary NHS bank staff can be costly, with total spending on last-minute agency nurses and doctors between 2021-22 reaching £3 billion. Furthermore, NHS England’s 2023/24 planning guidance asks that NHS systems reduce agency spending by 3.7% of the total pay bill, and so decreasing reliance on agency staff must remain a priority for all organisations in the next year and beyond. 


To meet these targets, one money-saving strategy you may want to consider implementing is a digital NHS staff bank. In this guide, we take you through the key elements you need to know to optimise your staff bank for cost savings, including: 


  • NHS staff bank recruitment best practices
  • The importance of collaboration
  • Understanding and analysing your workforce data
  • The role of effective governance


Let’s begin! 


1. NHS staff bank recruitment best practices


The first and most important step in the creation of a successful NHS staff bank is an effective recruitment and marketing strategy. As such, organisations should consider how they will communicate what the bank is, its benefits, and its processes ahead of time, to ensure the bank can be up and running as soon as possible following the launch. The most effective strategies will differ from organisation to organisation; however, from our experience, our partners have had success using these: 


  • Induction and technical support on Changeover days to onboard new staff efficiently
  • Recruitment events, both virtually and face-to-face to boost bank growth
  • Posters and flyers on-site to generate bank awareness
  • Screensavers for digital branding
  • Branded merchandise, including stationery


For more information on this, check out our guide: 4 key ways to recruit bank staff (and retain them)


2. The importance of collaboration


The era of the Integrated Care System (ICS) represents a major opportunity for organisations to collaborate on workforce deployment, bringing with it expanded scope for cost savings in this area. 


Collaborative NHS staff banks are a proven way of capitalising upon this new legislation to save money, support your regional workforce solutions, and improve patient outcomes – all whilst keeping excess administrative work to a minimum. By supporting NHS bank staff to safely work across organisational borders at the sites that best suit them, Trusts can jointly reap the benefits of increased shift fill rates, reduced agency spending, and more money retained within the NHS – which can then be reinvested into other valuable projects. 


Having built several collaborative staff banks alongside our NHS partners, our experience has shown the significant financial benefits of this model. The North West Collaborative Bank saw £6.2 million retained in the NHS in 2 years, and saved  £1.2 million on agency spending. The North West London Collaborative Bank, comprised of 4 London Trusts, grew a shared pool of medical staff by 320% and saw savings of £345,000. 


3. Collecting and analysing your workforce solution data


Having access to accurate, up-to-date information on how your temporary staffing budget is being spent, and why, is essential to running an effective NHS staff bank and ensuring your processes are constantly being refined and optimised. 


When it comes to financial decision-making, this is particularly important. With oversight of staffing levels, agency spend, pay rate escalations, shift fill rates, onboarding lead times, and more, organisations can more easily pinpoint areas of high spending and inefficiencies to effectively run a financially efficient staff bank. 


For example, our data from across 100+ healthcare sites shows that the sooner a worker is approved for the bank, the higher the number of shifts they go on to book. Insights such as these empower you to take action to remove bottlenecks, helping you build a more cost-efficient staff bank. 


Gathering, analysing, and reporting back on this data can, however, be a time-consuming task, and the admin burden can quickly add up. To keep processes efficient, it’s recommended that organisations use a dedicated data analytics tool, such as Patchwork Insights, which can do the heavy lifting for you, saving time and money.


4. The role of effective governance


Underpinning any initiative built to drive efficiencies and boost savings is effective governance. As such, when establishing a NHS staff bank, organisations should make it a priority from the start to involve and align key stakeholders, establish who is accountable and for what, and collaboratively define processes. Some specific examples of where you may want to particularly focus your efforts to drive the highest ROI include:

  • Creating a consistent and fair pay rate card, preventing internal competition.
  • Establishing consistent pay rate escalation practices, ensuring rates are enhanced in a controlled, financially efficient manner. 
  • Implementing robust pay rate controls, so shifts are only escalated under specific, predetermined conditions. 
  • Ensuring transparency of rates and spend across the organisation to drive long-term improvements.
  • Building ICS-wide rate cards to further boost collaboration and prevent competition. 


Our data experts go into further depth around these 5 key strategies in our guide: Patchwork Data Insights: 5 methods to maintain effective staff bank rates. This is available to read here. 


Ultimately, implementing and managing a NHS staff bank is not a one-and-done thing. To fully reap the financial benefits, it’s essential you and all your teams are truly invested in achieving the best possible outcomes from the solution. Otherwise, teams can run the risk of reverting to old practices, resulting in wasted time and money. However, by implementing the strategies above, you can be assured that your staff bank will achieve its aims, and generate savings in the long-term. 


To discuss your organisation’s specific staffing challenges and opportunities for improvements, feel free to get in touch at hello@patchwork.health.

Find out how to establish a safe, sustainable and modern staffing solution with Patchwork Health