Effective Rota Scheduling in Care Homes (& reduce staffing costs)

You'll need care workers, registered nurses, healthcare professionals, skilled coordinators & backups. Check the best staffing practices in care homes.
  • Author: Siva
  • Last updated: December 11, 2022
  • 10 Minutes
effective rota scheduling in care homes and thereby reducing staffing costs and best practices explained by Papershift

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Care home residents in the UK receive care and support from a variety of staff, including care assistants and nurses. Residential care homes and nursing homes employ a variety of people to ensure residents receive the care and support they need while having comfortable, happy lives. But the balance of staff within a care home needs to be carefully considered and rota scheduling needs to be managed with both the needs of the residents and the needs of the staff in mind.

But how do you have a successful care home business rota scheduling model and how do you find the right balance?

In this article, we will answer this question and many more.

Let’s begin.

Who does a care home rota schedule need to cover?

There are many roles within a care home, including care workers, senior care workers, managers, registered nurses, activities coordinators. The number of staff will often depend on the size and type of home.

Occasionally, residents will need additional care that staff may not be able to provide. This may require the home to arrange for healthcare professionals, such as GPs and dentists to visit.

Listed below are the different types of people who work in care homes and what their duties are as well as any specific scheduling needs they may have.

a. Care worker

Care workers, also called support workers, help residents in care homes with all aspects of daily living. This includes providing personal care, such as helping with washing, bathing, getting dressed, and going to the toilet.

Care workers will also assist residents with eating and drinking as well as monitoring their health, booking and accompanying residents to appointments and administering medication.

Care workers are often the most common member of staff within a care home and as such good coverage is essential when scheduling to ensure the needs of residents are met.

b. Senior care worker

A senior care worker ensures that the care provided to each resident is of the highest quality.

Duties of Care Workers
Daily duties may include completing medication reports, writing care plans, monitoring residents’ health and wellbeing, and contacting residents’ families.

Senior care workers often work like line managers of care teams. As such, it is important when scheduling that each team has a senior care worker to report to.

c. Managers and Deputy Managers

A care home Manager or Deputy Manager will lead and manage the care team in their day-to-day duties to ensure care standards are high.

Managers will have overall responsibility for the home with deputy managers supporting them with things like:

  1. Managing budgets
  2. Help with recruitment
  3. Conducting care assessments

Deputy managers will also take full responsibility for the care home when the manager is not there. Because of this, at least one member of the management team will need to be scheduled on shift at any given time.

Try care home staff scheduling online now.

d. Registered nurses

The role of a registered nurse in a care home is to provide medical care to residents when needed. There are various qualification levels for nurses and their duties will reflect their skills.

It’s important to note that not all care homes will have nurses on site and instead may have to visit community nurses to provide nursing care as needed. If this is the case, the scheduling of nursing visits will need to be well thought out to provide the required amount of care.

In care homes that are registered as nursing homes, at least one qualified registered nurse will be on-site 24 hours a day to provide care and supervise the care and support delivered by other members of staff. Again, any schedules or rotas will need to ensure this is taken into account.

e. Activities coordinators

Many care homes have activities coordinators who arrange various events, activities, trips, and to encourage residents to live active, happy lives. This may be a specific role in the care home, or a task given to a current member of staff.

Scheduling an activity coordinator will rely on the needs of the business, its residents and, indeed, whether the business employs such a role in the first place.

f. Visiting healthcare professionals

At times, care home residents may need a qualified healthcare professional or therapist to visit depending on the needs of the residents.

Larger care homes may have various healthcare professionals on-site, including:

  1. GPs
  2. Dentists
  3. Opticians
  4. Occupational therapists
  5. Counsellors
  6. Osteopaths
  7. Physiotherapists

Juggling visiting staff with on-site staff can be a tricky balancing act and will need thoughtful scheduling to get right.

Do I need to have specific levels of staff in a care home?

There are no legal requirements around staff ratios in care homes in terms of numbers. However, each care home must make sure it has enough staff to ensure each resident’s needs are met and other regulatory requirements are fulfilled.

Care Homes Skill Regulation Law
The Care Quality Commission (CQC), which is the regulator body for care homes in England, states in their regulation that: “Providers must deploy sufficient numbers of suitably qualified, competent, skilled and experienced staff to make sure that they can meet people’s care and treatment needs and therefore meet the requirements of Section 2 of these regulations (the fundamental standards).”

While there is no set ratio that must be achieved, if the number of staff in a care home are unable to provide the care and support residents require, the care home has not achieved the required staff ratio and may see action (including fines and even forced closure) taken against them.

How do you prevent staff care home staff from quitting?

One of the best ways to combat employee turnover is to understand the issues that lead to team members leaving. Of course, you’ll never be able to eliminate every factor that might prompt a staff member to leave. Some will simply want to move on, no matter what, while others will have legitimate personal reasons why they can’t stay. However, there are several factors within your control that can be addressed to keep staff for longer.

Recent Government surveys suggest that 75% of carers are unhappy with their work/life balance. The unpredictable nature of shift work that comes hand in hand with care homes can make it harder to hit the scheduling sweet spot that keeps staff happy.

Common Rota Mistakes
Here’s our guide for rota managers and scheduling supervisors to avoid ‘common staff rota mistakes‘.

Effective scheduling can provide a solution to this predicament but hitting the right balance is never easy. Our biggest tip for retaining staff if you run care home is to use the best scheduling tools available to you. This will take the pain out of setting up rotas, make changes easier to manage, save time, and, at the end of the day, create schedules that staff are happy with.

Take a look at our bestselling scheduling software and the many add-ins we provide in our Marketplace elsewhere on this website.

How do I create the best work schedule for my care home?

If you are spending more hours working on your care home schedule than you would like, you’re not the only one. Even though effective staff scheduling is critical to creating a great working environment, assisted living and care home facilities across the UK struggle with the task.

Often, the process of scheduling staff is time-consuming and chaotic in nature, with last-minute changes and unpredictable scheduling taking their toll on schedule managers.

But all is not lost. Here are a few tips to help you create a balanced and effective schedule.

a. Understand your care home staffing needs

With more and more workers needed to keep up with the UK’s ageing population, it might feel as if you are always hiring more care staff to keep pace with business needs.

Before you sink more time and money into hiring, it’s worth doing due diligence on whether you really need to recruit or whether you can more effectively schedule the people currently at your disposal.

Papershift’s staff scheduling tool can help you to organise your support staff by skills, location and role, providing you with instantaneous insight into underutilised team members who are qualified and available to fill shift gaps. You can also analyse and review past schedules to help you anticipate the future needs of support staff.

Plan your care home rota online now.

b. Know your team

Over the course of speaking to staff members, you should have documented their availability and preferences in terms of the number of hours they want to work and when. Be sure to store this information in your staff rota software so you can refer to it as you build your schedule. It’s important to schedule employees on shifts that work for them and their lifestyle, whether they have a family, are studying part-time, or even have another job.

Some of your staff will have complex, busy lives, while others will be more flexible. Understanding each team member’s needs is the key to keeping everyone happy.

c. Avoid last-minute scheduling

It’s important to make your staff schedule available to your team as far in advance as possible. We recommend two weeks in advance, as a minimum. If you’ve ever worked in the healthcare industry, you’ll know that being notified about a shift only a day or two before it is to take place is disruptive and stressful and may interfere with non-work plans that the individual may have.

If you’re regularly creating schedules at the last minute, you are making it virtually impossible for team members to make other plans regarding their lives and responsibilities outside of work. You may also find that you are making your employees less happy and less productive in the long run.

d. Free your team up to self-manage their availability

This is one of the easiest ways to positively impact staff members. Allowing staff to mark down when they are available and manage things like days off and holidays themselves, can free up hours of HR time that could be spent on other tasks. Using a staff scheduling system, like the one we provide at Papershift, can help automate this process for you.

e. Ensure schedules are always accessible to everyone

Transparent scheduling can help fuel a culture of employee accountability and awareness of what’s expected of them, and, consequently, happy, engaged, and productive staff.

The quickest way to distribute schedules is via a cloud-based app, (like the one we provide at Papershift), that employees can see in real-time. That way, they don’t have to call to check their hours, resulting in more wasted time for both them and the business. It also means they no longer have to trawl through emails to find the newest work schedule or time-off request form.

f. Facilitate easier shift swapping

This tip goes hand in hand with allowing staff to self-manage their own shifts. Shift swapping is important in healthcare businesses as it allows staff to change their working patterns to suit their needs.

If you’re wasting an exorbitant amount of time each week facilitating shift swaps, it’s a good idea to use your scheduling app to encourage staff to communicate with one another regarding shift swaps. While final approval on any changes will still lie with you, this is one of the easiest ways to ensure you have enough coverage when last-minute changes arise.

g. Review your schedule on a regular basis

Scheduling, unfortunately, isn’t a one-and-done task. It takes time and constant tweaking to get it right. Blindly fitting staff into empty slots without thinking about their needs or those of the business is a sure-fire way to neglect the needs of both residents and staff.

Be sure to make time on a monthly or weekly basis to check in on your scheduling and look for issues that have arisen. Ask how happy your team members are with their schedule and look for how productivity and care has fared over the period. This will allow you to make informed changes that will boost all areas of the business.

Using our scheduling software will allow you to see a vast array of reports and data that can be reviewed and speed analysis up considerably.

In conclusion

The challenge of care home staffing is never going to be easy. But with the right system and the right tools at your disposal, it doesn’t have to be a time-consuming chore.

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Written by Siva

I write & describe the value & benefits delivered by Paperhift's rota planning, staff time tracking, and employee payroll management software. Especially useful for Shift Planners, Rota Managers, Team Admins, and HR Teams :-)