December 2021

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Update from the National ESR Director

Paul Spooner

As I reflect on 2021, I am proud to recognise the extraordinary efforts of our colleagues across the health and care systems who have demonstrated not only great strength of character and determination, but also a real passion for the National Health Service and its patients and service users. Thank you!

It has been another very busy year for us in the ESR service team.  I appreciate that across the NHS, operational challenges continue to impact local capacity to progress large scale implementations - but it has been another very successful year in terms of service growth. I would like to extend my thanks to all NHS organisations for your continued support to maximise your use of ESR.

I would also like to thank IBM, our technology and service partner, and colleagues within the NHSBSA ESR service team, who together have maintained a high-quality service. I regularly reference ESR as being one of the World’s largest and most complex HR Management solutions and service, and that fact remains – adding a unique context to the service delivery achievements. Ensuring service stability and security remains, and will continue to be, our highest priority.

ESR System Usage

NHS organisations have continued to embrace the functionality within ESR and realise many of the associated efficiency and productivity benefits. We report growth across a range of areas, but two of the key user metrics are:

  • Employee Self-Service usage:
    • The total number of users - growth from over 1.57m unique users in November 2020 to 1.74m unique users in November 2021.
  • Access to online payslips:
    • Employees who have opted to receive an online payslip - growth from over 1.7m employee online payslips in November 2020 to over 2m employee online payslips in November 2021.

Whilst 2m employees’ accessing their payslip online is a remarkable milestone and achievement, there is more work that can be done.  In September 2021, circa 55k employees that received a paper payslip also viewed their online version – essentially, 55k paper payslips that need not have been printed across the NHS. Notwithstanding the operational efficiencies and security advantages of online payslip access, in the year that COP26 came to the UK to agree actions to address the global climate emergency, it has never been more important to examine how you can make positive changes in your organisation, and collectively by us all across the NHS. Moving to online payslips is a small step – offering significant benefits.

Our regional teams are currently supporting several ESR Leads with their plans to make the switch and turn off paper payslips.  If your organisation has not moved to online payslips, there is a range of helpful resources available on the ESR Hub and you can get support from your Functional Account Manager.

Service Performance

As noted earlier, ESR remains one of the largest and most complex systems of its kind in the World – reflecting both the scale and complexity of the NHS and terms and conditions of service. 

ESR has many Key Performance Indicators, including payment accuracy and payment timeliness – both of which have been consistently achieved throughout the year. Whilst I fully appreciate there have been a small number of system issues and unplanned service unavailability – something that the ESR Service teams work hard to avoid and/or minimise, the overarching achievement of such KPIs in normal working conditions is testament to the hard work and effort that goes in to delivering such a complex service, but when we overlay delivering the service in business continuity arrangements this demonstrates exemplary service discipline…and of course, ultimately, this has supported your payroll and HR teams to ensure NHS employees have continued to be paid on time and accurately.

ESR Developments – supporting user needs and national workforce policy

Consistent with previous years, we have continued to work with policy colleagues and users of the service to enhance the functionality within ESR.

The ESR development pipeline is influenced by many sources – broadly, legislation, workforce policy and user-led requirements. I would like to thank service users and stakeholders for their continued support to developing ESR – an article within this edition of ESR News highlights the significant levels of change that have been released during 2021, directly supported and influenced by users of the service and policy colleagues.

With system releases scheduled every month (and as required for urgent change), the ESR service has remained flexible and agile to deliver change. However, as a service team, we do recognise feedback asking for some change to be delivered quicker. We continually challenge ourselves to deliver change safely, and as fast as we are able to do so – taking in to account competing priorities, scale of change and ultimately through a lens of minimising the risk of change having a negative impact on the service and user experience.

Future Planning…Transformation of ESR Services

In June 2021 we provided a progress update via ESR News on the ESR Transformation programme. A lot of work has progressed in the 6-months since that update, with the team successfully completing Discovery phases 1 and 2 - including engagement with users and stakeholders to understand what works well, what doesn’t work well and opportunities in the current service and ensuring alignment to strategic workforce policies and needs.

An output from this work has been a Future State Vision for the NHS Workforce Management solution.  The team are now mobilising Discovery phase 3 which involves further user and stakeholder engagement to help shape the functional specification for the future solution - in this edition of ESR News you can read a full update from the ESR Transformation team. 

Thanks and Best Wishes…

Finally, I hope that you find this December edition of ESR News interesting and on behalf of the NHSBSA and the ESR Service team, may I express our thanks for all of your support throughout 2021, and wish you a Merry Christmas and offer Best Wishes for a healthy and happy 2022.


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