An app created by two junior doctors that matches their colleagues’ availability to gaps in the rota is set to make significant financial savings and deliver better staffing cover at a hospital.

Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, like many others, was forced to turn to expensive employment agencies to get temporary workers to fill empty shifts.

However, Dr Ahmed Shahrabani, a junior doctor at the Trust, believed more shifts could be filled by the hospital’s own staff if the process for applying for the additional work was easier.

Now, Dr Ahmed and Dr Nicholas Andreou have created Locum’s Nest a mobile app, which they hope to see rolled out across the NHS in a bid to curb the £3.5bn a year spent nationwide on agency staff.

The app allows the hospital to create invitations for available shifts and doctors to say when they would like to work. The app then matches availability with demand at the press of a button.

Dr Andreou, 29, said: “The idea was born out of our mutual frustration with the system for recruiting locum doctors. We’ve both done shifts as locum doctors and we had a feeling that the hospital and the doctors would get a better service and more satisfaction if they organised the shifts themselves.”

After raising money from friends and family they secured the support of Nikki Hill, the Associate Director of Human Resources at Royal Surrey.

Ms Hill, said: “We are always looking at ways that the Trust can save money and continue to deliver services and this innovation has helped us to utilise our own workforce, which is better for patient care.”

Dr Shahrabani and Dr Andreou spent 12 months building the app and then used it to try and organise vacant shifts in the Royal Surrey’s general medicine department.

Between October and December 2015 the Trust was able fill just 14 available shifts in general medicine with its own staff, costing thousands in expensive agency fees.

Thanks to the app, between October and December last year the same department saw a 300 per cent increase in its own staff taking up vacant shifts and filled 42 gaps in the rota.

This has significantly contributed to the Trust’s 56 per cent reduction in its agency bill in the latest financial year.

The Locum’s Nest app is now being used by every department at the Royal Surrey.

This year Royal Surrey opened a winter pressures ward to cope with the increased number of patients. The ward was safely staffed purely by doctors that applied through Locum’s Nest for 27 days this winter.

Dr Shahrabani said: “Doctors can’t be forced to work more shifts than they already do but through a combination of transparency, convenience and fun Locum’s Nest has managed to make the process much easier.”

Word of Locum’s Nests success is already spreading and other Trusts are also piloting it.

Dr Shahrabani added: “What is nice about Locum’s Nest is it’s a ground up not top down solution to agency staffing. We now have over 800 Doctors signed up to the app. That’s a real community that are using it because it makes helping your colleagues out easy. None of us mind helping out with extra shifts but previous systems have just been too hard.”

A sure sign of how easy Locum’s Nest is to use is the range of its users. Prof Jeremy Wright, a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology, said: “I’ve worked for an agency in the past and didn’t like it. You’re being exploited as a doctor and at the same time you’re exploiting the NHS. I like the Locum’s Nest system because it is fairer and more transparent.”

©2019 Royal Surrey County Hospital

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