Growth of an ageing population, with complex health needs, and constant pressure on budgets have placed ever-greater demands on the NHS.
To meet these increasing requirements, the health service must overcome two significant challenges that affect its 1.5-million strong workforce: flexibility and morale. The most recent NHS staff survey revealed that around 40 per cent of employees in England felt sick from workplace stress at some point last year.
“Too often staff feel disconnected from the leadership of the organisation and are frustrated because they don’t feel that the inevitable administrative tasks they have to perform directly benefit patients,” says Katrina Percy, who has two decades of experience in the health service, having risen from graduate trainee to become chief executive of a large NHS trust. “When you ask a doctor or nurse who they work for, they’ll often mention the name of the ward or the consultant, but not the actual organisation.”
Although they might be proud of the care they’re delivering, the general perception of the NHS is all too often an organisation that is, at best, struggling and, at worst, in crisis. This affects the image of their own organisation, damaging morale, she says.
“This lack of engagement can leave some staff feeling demotivated and reticent about trying the new things needed to bring about improvements,” says Katrina Percy, who is now chief executive of Ryalto, an app that helps healthcare professionals to manage their time and connect with their hospital. “That can mean a lack of people available to do extra shifts, for instance, with healthcare providers finding themselves paying out for agency fees.”
The Ryalto app is allowing our nurses and doctors to book shifts and work in our hospitals in a way that we’ve never been able to achieve previously
An answer to this pressing problem involves healthcare organisations building local identity. “This results in a sense of workplace community so staff can feel part of something closer to them,” she says. It was to fulfil this requirement that Ryalto was launched.
“It creates a sense for staff that ‘this is where I belong’ and it frees up their time to do what’s best for their patients,” says Katrina Percy. She points to research from Professor Michael West of the King’s Fund, which shows increasing engagement by a very small margin can not only reduce costs, but improve patient outcomes and, ultimately, save lives.
“The Ryalto app is allowing our nurses and doctors to book shifts and work in our hospitals in a way that we’ve never been able to achieve previously,” says Joe Harrison, chief executive of Milton Keynes University Hospital, which has saved almost £1 million thanks to the app.
As well as enabling staff to book shifts with a couple of taps, Ryalto creates that vital sense of belonging and community. “Healthcare organisations use the news feature to share everything from new care plans for dementia sufferers to the daily canteen menu and other useful information,” says Katrina Percy.
Users can also receive premium content from the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCNi) commercial arm, thanks to an exclusive deal. Alongside this there is a surveying feature, and a messaging and communications section that unlike WhatsApp doesn’t require staff to share their phone numbers and doesn’t feel cliquey.
“Junior doctors who move around between hospitals often struggle to find particular people and departments in a new organisation. So they really appreciate the fact they can, for instance, use Ryalto to find a surgical ward by simply asking for it, or identify the person in HR who handles childcare vouchers, just by searching for that topic,” says Katrina Percy.
Healthcare organisations can also use the app to make urgent announcements, such as infection problems or even a sudden fall of snow.
As Clare Culpin, former managing director of Basildon and Thurrock Hospitals, puts it: “With Ryalto you can build a relationship with your organisation in a more creative way.”
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