More than two years since having to switch its vast National Health Service (NHS) payroll operation to fully remote working during the pandemic, NHS Shared Business Services’ (SBS’) director of employment services, Tasy Warn, reflects on the lasting impact of Covid-19 and what it means for the future of NHS payroll and pensions services
When considering the challenges her teams faced because of remote working during the pandemic, Tasy observed: ‘’If someone had said to me pre-pandemic that everyone should work from home, I would have been sceptical about whether certain systems and processes would work. It wouldn’t have been something you would have thought to be easy”.
However, following government guidelines in early 2020, which made home-working the new normal for many people up and down the country, NHS SBS enabled working from home for the vast majority of employees during a two-week period. This was while still ensuring all payrolls were delivered successfully for some 400,000 NHS workers at around 70 different organisations.
Though the transition to a fully remote payroll operation was more effective than anyone could have expected, it was not without its difficulties. Describing just one of many new processes NHS SBS introduced, Tasy explained: “Sometimes we need to send confidential letters to NHS employees and due to data protection, we don’t email the information. So, we had to implement a whole new process of getting digital documents back to the post room. We then needed to manage and issue correspondence out safely and securely. But nothing is insurmountable. As new challenges were presented, we worked as a team to overcome them.”
Going above and beyond
Throughout the pandemic, the NHS was on a massive recruitment drive. Existing employees delayed retirement, some NHS retirees returned to work and new staff were hired to deal with drastically increased workloads.
While successfully transitioning NHS SBS teams to remote working was a significant accomplishment, Tasy stressed that one of the organisation’s greatest successes was going above and beyond to meet the high payroll demands of the NHS: “We had one NHS organisation that required 20,000 new starters to be set up over just a few weeks. Being able to manage that sort of demand required a phenomenal effort”.
Other successes included new functionality for the MySBSPay payroll app, which enabled NHS employees to raise a query regarding their pay without the requirement to call the NHS SBS service desk. Tasy explained this was designed with employee experience in mind: “Especially when time is so precious – it gives the individual time back for other things”.
Modern technologies, better user experience
The greater adoption of technology will be a legacy of the pandemic across NHS corporate services, including payroll and pensions, in the same way it has continued to transform patient care. Tasy added: “Our main priority is enhancing user experience. In our personal lives, we’re so used to being able to access round-the-clock services from our own homes, on our own devices – whether it’s banking or shopping. Within the NHS there are still a lot of manual processes around. So, for us, the future is about how we work with NHS organisations to really look at a digital end-to-end – so those working in the NHS can self-help and self-serve.”
As part of its ongoing digital expansion, NHS SBS Employment Services further developed new services during the pandemic, including exit interviews and a data analytics solution, both designed to help the NHS overcome one of its most pressing workforce challenges. Tasy explained: “Together they have become our employee retention service, which essentially uses data to provide invaluable insight into NHS organisations which have a greater risk of people leaving, so they can put actions in place to reduce attrition”.