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How staff rotation in the NHS affects data access

28/03/2023 minute read Health and Care

The NHS is one of the largest employers globally, with over 1.4 million employees spanning across more than 350 different job roles.

With such a wide variety of careers coupled with ongoing retention challenges, it’s understandable that there is a high level of fluidity within the NHS workforce as people move between roles, departments and Trusts for the next opportunity. Why are there high levels of staff rotation and what are the implications for an organisation’s data access and security?

Why is there staff rotation in the NHS workforce?

Internal mobility

The NHS has a variety of avenues that allow staff to switch between functions. Substantive employees may move roles for career progression or take a sidestep into a different department. Others may choose to move temporarily.

The introduction of Integrated Care Systems combined with growing pressures in healthcare has seen Trusts being more flexible when sharing resources, particularly their workforce. Many organisations encourage internal mobility as they can offer staff new experiences and skills as they explore different environments.

Rotational roles and redeployment opportunities are a couple of the ways in which organisations can temporarily share resources. Employees may move to other departments or Trusts for a specified length of time, to help ease pressures or to build their understanding and confidence in a new area of work.

Bank and agency staff

It’s widely understood that retention has been an ongoing issue in the healthcare sector, particularly as demand for care and the pressure to keep up with demand grows. High turnover rates are currently leaving one in ten NHS roles vacant, making it difficult for organisations to recruit enough substantive staff in time to meet the needs and demands of the service.

Trust managers look to source healthcare professionals from other avenues, such as agencies or through banks to temporarily fill unprecedented workforce gaps.

Around 11% of the total NHS workforce are bank and agency staff. The issue is most pronounced in the nursing profession with an estimated 80% of nurse vacancies being filled by agency or bank staff, according to the National Audit Office. These routes do tend to be more expensive for Trusts, particularly when hiring through an agency, as the staff member has more control over their hourly rate. However, bank, locum or agency work does offer staff greater flexibility, as they can choose where and when they work.

How can high levels of staff rotation effect data security and access?

1. Insufficient digital onboarding

Both clinical and non-clinical NHS staff starting in their role need to be enrolled onto digital systems. To access the NHS Spine for instance, you would traditionally need a physical smartcard to log in. This would require all members of staff to visit their registration office on-site to be authorised. A time consuming and complex process, this can prevent employees from starting important work on time.

2. Lack of transparency

With high levels of staff rotation, some employees may still be set up with access to systems they no longer use. It can be difficult to keep track when there are many members of temporary staff coming in and out of the organisation - Who has had access? Who should no longer have permissions? Have staff felt that they’ve needed to share their logins with colleagues because they weren’t digitally onboarded?

3. Remote working

Challenges around staff rotation and access to digital systems aren’t limited to being on-site. Those working remotely may not have the equipment, such as a card reader, that enables them to log into a system from their laptop. These out-dated methods can also be unreliable if the connection is weak, or the equipment is faulty. This prevents staff from being able to complete their tasks or access the data they need unless they are in-house.

How can virtual smartcards help staff access data?

All NHS staff should be able to easily access the care systems they need whether that be for a permanent or temporary role.

Over 800,000 people currently use a smartcard to log in to the NHS Spine. A virtual smartcard is the digital alternative to the NHS physical smartcard, but with enhanced security and flexibility.

  • Efficient user adoption

Our Virtual Smartcards make managing access to the NHS Spine quicker for Registration Authorities (RA) and users themselves. RA’s can easily issue and manage cards from the portal, without the need to be face-to-face with users. Once set up, users can manage their own passwords, security questions, and set up their own devices for authentication.

  • Auditable trail

Every time a staff member logs into the NHS Spine through their Virtual Smartcard, their use is audited, geotagged and easy to identify. And once a user has been issued access, you can manage how long they are registered, helping you to better manage redeployed or agency staff who may only need to be set up temporarily.

  • Flexible access

Virtual Smartcards are compatible with any device. And as a cloud-based solution, there’s no need for on-site infrastructure. This also allows your staff to access the system from any location, making remote working easier for all users, whether they’re with you permanently or temporarily.

Get in touch

Have a look at our Virtual Smartcard. Our cloud-based authentication solution makes it easy for staff to access the NHS Spine using the same NHS identity as a physical card.

Any member of staff can be set up with a Virtual Smartcard to have access to the NHS Spine for however long they are employed by your organisation, helping you to ensure better data access and security when sharing your workforce.

Get in touch and we can discuss how we can tailor our Virtual Smartcard to your organisation.