Time to care
Securing a future for the hospital workforce in Europe
In light of rising demand, staff shortages and lack of time for hands-on-care, are current hospital workforce models sustainable? New research released by the Deloitte UK Centre for Health Solutions explores the current state of hospital workforces across Europe and their key challenges, and provides recommendations to transform the workforce to remain fit for the future.
Based on interviews with more than 50 senior stakeholders and a crowd-sourced survey of over 1350 doctors and nurses across 11 European countries, our report points to a workforce buckling under the strain of a heavy workload, poor work-life balance and declining morale and wellbeing.
With the workforce being a hospital’s most crucial asset, Time to care provides health care leaders with ways to address today’s challenges whilst offering the building blocks towards a more sustainable future.
Spotlight on Ireland
In keeping with our European counterparts, the Irish hospital healthcare workforce faces many of the same key challenges including workforce shortages and a lack of time for handson care. This article takes a deep dive into the survey data captured from hospital respondents in Ireland. We have focused particularly on the questions regarding workforce satisfaction and wellbeing, as they are two key contributors to overall healthcare system performance – particularly when it comes to ensuring that the right staff-mix is attracted and retained in a tight labour market. Employee morale is also a key factor in the successful implementation of innovation and change, and can have significantly impact the implementation of digital health technologies.
Characteristics of the Irish survey sample
In total 82 health care professionals from across the Irish hospital sector took part in the survey, 33 female respondents (40 per cent) and 49 male respondents (60 per cent). A majority (n=75, 91 per cent) work in the public/non-profit hospital sector. The sample consisted of 28 doctors (34 per cent) and 54 nurses (66 per cent), the majority of whom (87 per cent) work full-time.
While this is a relatively small sample, which does not claim to be representative of the wider hospital workforce, the responses from these men and women nonetheless give us food for thought and can stimulate debate on how we can prepare our hospital workforce In Ireland for future challenges.
Explore the full findings (Europe)
Addressing today’s hospital workforce challenges
Share responsibility for workforce planning, education and training
Current training models are recognised to be too rigid, inflexible and lengthy; they require updating and re-designing to equip health professionals with the skills they require for the future. There is also a need for national frameworks for numbers, skills and competencies to reduce in-country variation and ensure quality.
Improve working conditions to increase employee satisfaction
A positive working environment, high variety of work, and a sense of accomplishment are most relevant for driving employee satisfaction. Senior leaders recognise the importance of offering flexible working patterns and professional and career development. Providing support and recognition from immediate team members is also recognised as important.
Ensure staff wellbeing
Approaches to improving staff wellbeing require additional attention. The research identifies a range of actions for employers to support the mental and physical wellbeing of their workforce: offering programmes or services directed at prevention, promoting a culture of openness and transparency, and offering support to tackle specific problems for example counselling and return-to-work schemes.
Develop strong leadership to create a culture of collaboration and transparency
A strong and visible leadership is important to manage personal and team development and promote a culture of inclusion, health promotion and staff wellbeing. Our survey responses and interviews show the importance of team collaboration and a ‘sense of belonging’ within organisations, and some organisations are learning from other industries such as the airline industry to address these issues.
Recruit and retain hospital staff
Offering flexible career and job planning, improving opportunities and organisation of continuous professional development, and shaping a culture of transparency, feedback and participation are key initiatives to improve recruitment and retention. Initiatives to address recruitment in particular include driving stronger brand recognition, providing additional benefits and rewards (financial and non-financial), and improving on-boarding and early-career programmes. Addressing staff wellbeing and improving workforce management are key to achieving higher rates of retention.
Manage the workforce effectively, including rostering and use of temporary staffing
If utilised to the full extent of its capability, e-rostering can effectively improve staff satisfaction and patient care. However, many organisations struggle to realise the full potential of e-rostering and continue to report unreliability of staff schedules. Reducing dependency on agency staff is recognised as a key ambition by all organisations; key measures include building, sustaining and optimising the use of the permanent and flexible workforce by shaping organisational culture and harnessing fit-for-purpose technological solutions.
Securing the hospital workforce of the future
Implement digital solutions and leverage new technologies for frontline delivery of care
Digital and cognitive technologies will disrupt the future of work in health care. Implementing new technologies such as robotics and Artificial Intelligence will improve efficiencies, co-ordinate services, and free time for professionals for hands-on patient care.
Adopt new training models to upskill health professionals
Health professionals of the future will require a strong competency for change, enabling them to adapt to new technologies, medical advancements, and changing system conditions. Individuals will also need to collaborate across professions and sectors to deliver value-based care, and be prepared to develop their learning through more innovative education methods, including cognitive analytics, online tools and virtual reality.
Increase enriched and augmented roles
Cognitive computing technologies are now able to perform tasks once considered solely the domain of humans, but care delivery will require distinctively human capabilities. However, moving forward health care professionals will be increasingly augmented by fit-for-purpose technologies to improve productivity. Employers and employees need to be prepared to effectively divide tasks between humans and machines.
Adopt new models of care
Health care will be delivered in new models of care, operating across sectors and shifting from funding models that pay for volume to systems that pay for value. These value-based care models will create a new paradigm in which care is delivered by an entirely co-ordinated community, requiring professionals and managers to collaborate in building infrastructure and sharing accountability.
Investing in a cost-effective health care workforce is an investment in population health and wellbeing, and a driver of economic growth. Caring for our hospital doctors and nurses is critical to workforce productivity, and without a transformation that enables smarter and more flexible working, the decline in motivation and staff wellbeing threaten to impact the future of health care delivery.
For more information on securing the future of the hospital workforce, read the full report.