Think that that email about workforce planning and legislation doesn’t apply to you as an Allied Health Professional? As part of Healthcare Improvement Scotland’s Healthcare Staffing Programme, Karen Mackenzie advises holding fire with the delete button.

How many times a day do you hit the delete button if you think an email isn’t for you? In my busy clinical role as a NHS Scotland Speech and Language Therapist, I’d often skim over emails that dropped in to my inbox with the words “legislation”, “workload” and “workforce planning” in the subject field.  Surely that information was for managers or executives? My experience was that clinicians on the ground didn’t have any involvement in workload and workforce planning.

In 2019 I attended a Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RSCLT) Scotland Hub event that completely changed my perspective…and stopped me hitting that delete key.   As a clinician with 14 years of experience in a range of settings where Allied Health Professional (AHP) services often struggled to meet service demand with a limited resource, the Health and Care Staffing Act (Scotland) 2019 got my attention. And like many of my colleagues, I had a lot of questions. What do I need to know? How is this going to affect my team’s day to day work? Can we get any support with this?

Not just for nurses

For a start, I found out that this legislation is not just for nurses.  It applies to all Health and Social Care staff groups.  What’s more, the Common Staffing Method and General Duties enshrined within the Act could change the face of AHP workload and workforce planning, helping us ensure that we have the right people in the right place at the right time to deliver safe, high quality person centred care.

While the Act does not impose minimum staffing levels, all NHS Scotland Health Boards will have a legal duty to ensure that they implement the General Duties of the Act.  For AHPs, this means several things. First of all, our professional judgement matters when it comes to making decisions about staffing numbers and skill mix. As clinical leads for our services, we can help shape vital decisions around staffing. And even if you’re not the lead, your thoughts matter when it comes to workload and safe staffing.  Every team should have a process that allows them to decide on a daily basis whether their service is “safe to start” based on available staff. That way, the impact of staffing numbers and skill mix on quality of care will be made clearer. Furthermore, when clinical staff identify risks associated with reduced staffing levels, there will be clear, easily accessible processes for mitigating and escalating these risks.

From deleting to developing resources

I’m now an Assistant Programme Advisor with Healthcare Improvement Scotland’s Healthcare Staffing Programme. I’ve come a long way from hitting the delete button. I work in partnership with people from a range of health and social care professions to help them understand what they need to do to get ready for the enactment of the legislation. The team I’m part of also develops tools and education resources to help our stakeholders measure and plan their workloads and capture the quality of patient care and staff wellbeing.

We’re talking to everyone from AHPs to care home staff, and in the current pandemic we have supported teams with simple solutions to real time staffing assessment.  For example, our team members worked with our stakeholders and the Scottish Government to develop simple Safety Huddle and Professional Judgement templates that can be used in a variety of settings, including care homes, to assess real time staffing and risk on a daily basis. Over 1000 Care Homes across Scotland registered to use the safety huddle template.   We collaborated with our colleagues at NES Digital to further develop the Care Homes Safety Huddle into a digital resource on Turas.  We also work with Workforce Leads from NHS Scotland boards to ensure that they have the right knowledge, skills and training to support Health and Social Care staff to embed the duties of the Act.  The clinical voice of a wider range of professionals is a welcome addition to the support we offer and the resources that we develop.

So the next time you see an email with the words “legislation”, “workload” and “workforce planning” in the subject field, don’t just hit delete. It could hold the key to making your team safer, stronger and ready for anything.

Karen Mackenzie is an Assistant Programme Advisor with Healthcare Improvement Scotland’s Healthcare Staffing Programme.

Find out more

  • Speak with the Workforce Lead for your NHS Board area for information and suggestions on how you can get involved.