New joint HR and Self Service SIGs is established in the South East

Establishment of the seven regions within the NHS in England introduced an opportunity to re-align the ESR Special Interest Groups (SIGs). Previously, the South included four regions (South West, Wessex, Thames Valley and Kent, Surrey & Sussex); this is now just two regions - South West and South East. 

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic the Special Interest Groups (SIGs) met face to face like many other networks, and previous efforts to merge the South East SIGs to align with the national seven regions presented some challenges.  These geographically large regions meant it wasn’t always possible to find a suitable venue that was practical for all of the SIG members - the region is vast, stretching from Buckinghamshire to the Isle of Wight and Kent to Hampshire.  However, just as the pandemic and restrictions on travel have presented challenges, the move to virtual working has also created opportunities, and for the SIGs this opportunity has been a catalyst for merging these ESR networks.

During November, the HR/Recruitment and Self Service group held their first virtual meeting of combined members.  Helen Pope, Workforce Intelligence Manager at Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust is the Chair:

Moving the SIG meetings online has meant more members have been able to join where historically travel time and cost has been an issue for many. I’m keen for as many members as possible to join the SIG meetings, as it’s the one meeting that’s usually really useful for people in the ESR community in our region.  The move to virtual meetings alone has increased our ability to share issues, knowledge and experience; to provide support for each other and help Trusts progress with ESR projects or resolve problems, and always go away with something new learnt.

Expanding the membership from seventy three to one hundred and sixteen members covering a larger geographical area without having to worry about finding meeting rooms in the right location is fantastic. Within our region there are a number of Trusts who are experienced ESR users and have rolled out major projects such a Manager Self Service, which means we are not relying on the same few individuals to lead discussions and answer queries. We are also able to offer additional meetings to discuss specific topics so the main quarterly SIG meeting remains focussed on the issues that matter and giving us enough time to make it meaningful for all.

This definitely is a case of ‘the more the merrier!


Helen has already organised the first sub group meeting to discuss Establishment Control in more detail and SIG members who have already implemented Establishment Control will be sharing their experiences and lessons learned with those that are about to embark upon an Establishment Control project.

Isle of Wight NHS Trust is first successful ESR Optimisation pilot

The Isle of Wight NHS Trust was ready to begin the process of fully implementing Learning Management and Manager Self Service elements of ESR. Although core ESR was very well established within the HR Workforce team, the Training and Development team had really only ever utilised the e-Learning offerings within Learning Management. 

During 2019 the Training & Development Department were asked to lead on the full implementation of Learning Management so that the existing learning management system could be replaced. The Trust, as a whole, could hugely benefit from having just the one system related to pay and training instead of the previous individual systems.

The immediate challenge was trying to deliver this project whilst maintaining business as usual, and it soon became clear that the team would require some experienced assistance. The NHS ESR Implementation Advisor (IA) in the region could provide some additional support to the Isle of Wight team, who up to that point acknowledged that they had made disappointing progress. With the IA’s support the team found that they could dedicate one day per week to the project and move forward in a more structured way. The Trust had decided to make use of the ESR Learning Management solution, and it quickly became clear that also rolling out Manager Self Service at the same time would further enhance the user experience and improve their back office functions. The project then became a joint venture between the Workforce Information Team and Training & Development Department to ensure their project plans were robust enough for a rollout to all staff in December 2019, but unfortunately their target go-live date of December 2019 couldn’t be realised.

The rollout of MSS was planned to go live department by department, as this would give the Workforce Information Team the time to ensure the hierarchy was collated and input to ESR.  Considerable work took place at the beginning of the New Year and just as it was the intention of the HR Workforce team to roll out Manager Self Service, their combined April 2020 launch was scuppered by the COVID-19 pandemic and once again put the project on pause.

The COVID-19 pandemic meant that most of the Training & Development/Workforce Information Teams had to work from home. The project teams re-grouped at this point, and with the introduction of MS Teams, they could once again look to move the project along considerably.

How ESR Optimisation helped

It was at this point that the team realised significant additional hours would be required to get the project back on track.  The IOW team was then invited to be the first pilot organisation to pilot ESR Optimisation.  ESR Optimisation is being developed by the NHSBSAs Workforce Services Directorate which includes the NHS ESR service. 

The opportunity to test the processes that were being developed as part of this initiative meant that the team at the IOW could be supported with additional resource to undertake  the vast amount of data that they had yet to input into the Learning Management system.

With governance and audit processes in place, Nelson Boto, ESR Implementation Advisor and the NHSBSAs Optimisation team set to work. The leads from Training & Development and Workforce Information collated comprehensive spreadsheets detailing the changes required in ESR; these were uploaded via an ESR Service Request to ensure the data was transferred securely. This amounted to approximately 600+ lines of data (for Learning Management) which included Course changes, end dating Courses, Creating changes, end dating existing offerings, adding learning objects, adding Internal trainers and adding venues. This data was entered very quickly and efficiently and enabled the IOW team to focus on additional aspects of the Learning Management implementation.

And then there was Manager Self Service

The MSS element of the pilot involved supervisor input of 400+ records; this enabled the IOW team to give appropriate URP access to their managers included within the MSS rollout, and more importantly it kept the Trust on track for their revised MSS launch date of 1st September 2020; along with improving their data quality within ESR.

Due to COVID-19 working arrangements the entire ESR Optimisation pilot was undertaken virtually, and the team not only undertook the data input work remotely but also provided a comprehensive Project Initiation Document/Project Plan which included the framework for how the teams would need to work in order to ensure the pilot was a success. 

Stuart Inett (pictured) said:Stuart Inett

It has to be said that without the support, knowledge and understanding of both Nelson Boto and Tony and Sam from the Optimisation team that we would not be in the position that we are today, the project would have certainly failed if it wasn’t for this very kind and hugely successful intervention.

The pilot has not only helped us to move forward with optimising our use of ESR, but we are delighted to have been asked to pilot this new approach to project support that the NHS ESR team and the NHSBSA will be making available in the coming months.  Going forward I think ESR Optimisation will be a huge help to NHS organisations like ours that want to implement MSS and/or Learning Management.

The next steps

As for the next steps for the IOW NHS Trust, Calum Robertson, ESR Lead said:

Following the launch of MSS implementation, our main focus will be to ensure all appraisal data is held within ESR via MSS, which will give confidence to managers that appraisal data held within the Trust is accurate and also aid the Pay Progression process.

You can read more about ESR Optimisation in this month’s edition of ESR News.



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