Programme news

Update from Paul Spooner, NHSBSA ESR Director

Consistent with previous years, it has been another busy year for us in the NHSBSA ESR service team. I appreciate that across the NHS, operational challenges continue to influence how change projects are prioritised - but it has been another successful year in terms of service growth.

I would like to extend my thanks to all NHS organisations for your continued support to optimise your use of ESR and your continued engagement and support to the ESR service and team.

I would once again like to thank IBM, our technology and service partner, and colleagues within the NHSBSA ESR service team, who together have worked tirelessly to maintain a high-quality service. Ensuring service stability and security remains, and will continue to be, our highest priority.

ESR System Usage

NHS organisations have continued to optimise their use of functionality within ESR and realise many of the associated efficiency and productivity benefits. In 2021 we reported growth in the uptake of Employee Self-Service and access to online payslips, and during 2022 these areas have continued to grow – over 93% of NHS employees now access their payslips online via self-service. However, there is still more that can be achieved through full use of self-service (employee and manager).

The publication of the Future of NHS HR & OD report ( in 2021 set out a 10 year strategy for HR & OD services in the NHS. With ambitions that align to the objectives of the NHS People Plan, it outlines how the people profession will work to transform people services, using digital tools and platforms to create a more timely, standardised, and intuitive service. ESR Self-Service functionality is a key enabler in support of this vision.

Organisations can create significant and tangible enhancements to the experience of their employees by giving them access to digital solutions such as ESR Self-Service - including the ability to view and manage personal data whilst Manager Self-Service empowers managers to manage their teams in real-time. This not only benefits the employees and supports strategies to create a great place to work, but it also brings many other organisation benefits:

  • Improved data quality.
  • Up-to-date workforce information.
  • Reduced overpayments.
  • Supports recruitment and retention strategies.
  • Reduced data security risks.

During the last 12-months, our regional teams have worked with organisations to help them develop plans to optimise their use of ESR, and that work will continue into 2023 and beyond. This is important not only because we should collectively be striving to achieve the ambitions of the NHS People Plan, but across the NHS we need to maintain a focus on redesigning processes using the technology and tools that we have available to us – both today and in preparation for the future.

The Future NHS Workforce Solution

The policy driver to modernise the way the NHS workforce operates is at the heart of the NHSBSA future Workforce Transformation Programme. During 2022, following an extensive Discovery, the Programme has continued to progress and is now in the procurement phase.

To realise the benefits of the future NHS workforce solution there is a need to optimise the use of current systems, and organisations can prepare themselves and their people by continuing to use the existing capabilities within ESR. 

The Future NHS Workforce Transformation Programme will bring the latest innovation into the future NHS workforce solution, building on the existing capabilities of ESR and enhancing the user experience for NHS employees and managers.

Further information regarding the Programme can be found at Future NHS Workforce Solution Transformation programme | NHSBSA and you join in with the programme on the Future NHS Workforce Solution workspace on NHSFutures.

Our ESR regional teams are currently working with NHS organisations across England to help develop plans to deliver their ESR optimisation journey, with a wide range of ESR functionality implemented to support operational and workforce objectives - ESR Assessments are an important activity in this process. Engaging in the ESR Assessment provides Chief People Officers (CPOs) and teams with an up-to-date health check about how they are using ESR; it shows where there are opportunities for further work to release efficiencies, improve the experience of employees, and forms the basis of the optimisation journey.

There is a range of helpful resources available on the ESR Hub website - (,  including information about how ESR can support the delivery of the ambitions of the NHS People Plan and key actions/opportunities for CPOs. All NHS organisations can get expert support and guidance from our team of ESR Functional Account Managers and Implementation Advisors, and there is also a wide range of Education and Training available – speaking of which, there is a great article in this edition of ESR News referencing changes to the ESR Education offering, and how this is having a positive benefit for core and professional ESR users.

ESR Developments – supporting user needs and national workforce policy

As referenced in previous years, ESR has continued to deliver system changes to new requirements during 2022.

By way of a reminder - the ESR development pipeline is influenced by many sources – broadly, legislation, workforce policy and user-led requirements. I would once again like to thank service users, delivery partners and stakeholders for their continued support to developing ESR. Please see an article within this edition of ESR News summarising the variety of these changes -

Thanks, and Best Wishes…

Finally, I hope that you find this December edition of ESR News interesting – it is great to read about such positive people services in practice, and use of ESR. On behalf of the NHSBSA and the ESR Service team, may I express our thanks for all your support throughout 2022, and wish you a Merry Christmas and offer Best Wishes for a healthy and happy 2023.

ESR Developments to improve user experience and meet the priorities of the NHS

The end of another busy year for the development of ESR has seen more than 60 changes introduced into the solution, including pay awards, legislative changes and technical upgrades.

Work continues on the final release of 2022 (scheduled for 30th December), and we thought it would be timely to reflect on some of the highlights for this year:

  • Payslip availability during periods of reduced service.
  • Legislative payroll changes including AfC Average pay changes for English organisations and the introduction of SAS pay progression.
  • The introduction of emails to support learning being delivered virtually.
  • Player Status for e-Learning classes can now be updated by the Learning Administrator.
  • Changes to improve Payroll and Pension processes.
  • Updates to Illegal Working Checklist in line with changes introduced by the Home Office.
  • Updates to the Immunisations and Vaccination values following collaboration with the National Occupational Health Steering Group.
  • Introduction of postcode lookup to the My Personal Information and My Applicant Details Portlets.
  • The addition of further values to help identify and support members of the Armed Forces Community.
  • Improvements to the My Applicant Details Portlet.
  • The introduction of a prompt on the My Personal Information and Equality and Diversity Portlets to remind employees to update or verify their information.

We continue to be grateful for the invaluable contribution and support we have received from all of our users and stakeholders.  Such contribution ensures the accurate identification, gathering and definition of requirements; meaning our pipeline of change continues to reflect both user and policy needs.

All of the changes introduced in to ESR can be found in the Guide to Enhancement and Changes which accompany each release, which you can find on the ESR Hub.

Wellbeing Information: ESR Release 56

Changes planned for the December 2022 release will build on the previous developments in ESR to support employees. Following this release ESR will provide employees with options to easily self-record information through the existing My Personal Information portlet that will allow organisations to support the health and wellbeing of their staff.

Wellbeing info in ESR

Technical Developments and Upgrades

Alongside functional changes, technical changes to ESR also take place in order to safeguard service delivery and future proof the service. Such changes have been essential to ensure that the service remains at the forefront of using the latest technologies.

Changes introduced this year have seen us move the ESR Data Centres – including all of the technology that is used to run ESR - to new and improved hardware within state-of-the-art data centre facilities.  This was a large and complex change which will allow us to take advantage of improved storage and processing capabilities, support ongoing service growth and better prepare for future Service Transformation requirements.

Payslip Availability

To ensure that ESR remains compliant with legislation, NHS policy and continues to deliver the requests for change from users and stakeholders, we are required to take ESR and the ESR Hub offline to apply these essential changes in a safe manner. This includes pay awards and pension updates, system and security enhancements.

Unfortunately, this means that NHS employees cannot always log in to ESR or the ESR Hub during the identified period of unavailability - we appreciate the frustration this can sometimes cause.

To try and help resolve some of the issues employees experience when we have to take ESR offline, particularly when just wanting to log in and check their latest payslip, we introduced a change earlier this year.

ESR now makes the two most recent payslips available as soon as possible during periods of reduced service. This means that employees can securely view their latest two payslips via the ESR Hub website when the ESR service is offline.

If payslips are available via the ESR Hub, a holding page is displayed as shown below:

Payslip via the ESR Hub

‘Continue to Payslip Download’ will redirect users to the ‘View My Payslip’ page. Entering your usual ESR Username and Password for internet access then allows you select the ‘Download My Payslip’ button – your latest payslip for your primary assignment (job) will be available to view and/or download.

Helping to Maintain Good Quality Data

To further help improve employee data quality, a development was introduced to prompt employees to view and, if required, update their personal and equality and diversity information.

My Personal Info

The portlet now displays the status colour, associated text, and date of last update/verification. The status colour will change automatically along with the associated text based on the date the user last updated or verified their information within each portlet.

Two new notifications and e-mails have also been developed in support of this change and will be triggered in ESR where the user has not updated or verified their equality and diversity, or personal information, within the last 12 months (365 days).

Process Improvements

Engaging and supporting our users remains a key priority to the success of ESR - we continue to rely on the feedback and change requests to improve usability and efficiency.  Through this process we have introduced the following enhancements:

  • The wording on the ‘Your Payslip is Available’ email has been amended to provide additional details to reduce the number of queries organisations receive.
  • The Review Type has been added to the Review due notifications for managers and role holders.This information will provide clarification on which review requires action.
  • Changes to the wording on the Applicant Dashboard for users reviewing their bank account details
  • Payslip Wording for Gross Overpayments has been amended to reflect that the payment is in relation to an overpayment.
  • The Upcoming Classes Portlet has been in enhanced to include a ‘Notify Learners’ button.

Looking Ahead

Next year promises to be equally busy - considering expected demand for legislative, policy and ongoing user-led change. As always, our focus will be on ensuring we respond to these challenges and continue to deliver a first-class solution with increased efficiencies to help the NHS workforce.

ESR e-Recruitment Interfaces

Every year ESR successfully processes more than 250,000 applications for new starters and over 1.2 million individual employment check updates.

This information is transferred into ESR from external Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), via our automated links, known as the e-Recruitment Interfaces. These interfaces link with ATS providers such as NHS Jobs and help recruiters by automatically creating applicant records for new starters and updating their employment check records within ESR, saving the NHS valuable time and money.

The e-Recruitment interfaces are available to all suppliers of Applicant Tracking Systems who are able to develop the required capability. To date, we have worked with the following suppliers:

  • NHS Jobs
  • Trac
  • Tribepad
  • Hirelab

If you would like further information about the ESR e-Recruitment Interfaces, please contact your NHSBSA ESR Functional Account Manager or raise a Service Request on the ESR Service Desk.

Delivering expert ESR Education

Since 2008 the ESR Education Team has offered classroom training to all Employing Authorities, as part of the ESR Service provision.

Courses were offered at training centres in the North, Midlands and South of England, accommodating between 12 and 16 delegates. Alongside classroom delivery, ad-hoc webinars were provided to support organisations at critical times of the year, for example RTI End of Year and P11D.

In 2019 14 ad-hoc sessions were delivered to 267 attendees and overall, the attendance rate was 57.5% across all the courses delivered.

In March 2020 all classroom delivery was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated travel restrictions. During this time, the ESR service commenced a review of the ESR Education offering. This included engaging with system users to better understand the ESR education needs to enable them to use the system effectively and efficiently to manage their workforce, as well as understand preferences for methods of delivery.

ESR Education today

Delivered by our experienced ESR Education Team, the curriculum has been transformed into a suite of interactive learning elements. Using customer feedback along with intelligence gleaned from the Service Request process, we now offer both standard courses online and a suite of dynamic ‘Hot Topic’ webinars, aimed at supporting ESR users to optimise the way they use ESR.

The online training curriculum offers the following:

Standard Webinars

  • Recruitment – Manage Vacancies
  • Recruitment – Manage Applicants
  • HR – New Starters
  • HR – Assignment Changes and Leavers
  • ESR BI – Creating BI Content
  • ESR BI – Customising National BI Content
  • OLM – Creating Catalogue Content
  • OLM – Enrolments and Subscriptions
  • OLM – Introduction to e-Learning

Each webinar lasts between 90 and 120 minutes and can accommodate a maximum of 20 delegates. The sessions are interactive, include system demonstrations and provide delegates with the opportunity to ask live questions to an experienced ESR Education Consultant.

Since the introduction of the standard webinars in October 2020 we have delivered 325 sessions, attended by 3402 system users (up to November 2022).

e-Learning / Self-Help Guidance

In addition to the standard webinars an extensive suite of online e-Learning modules are available on the ESR Hub website -

  • ESR Portal Dashboards
  • Portal Administration
  • Administrator Self Service
  • Employee Self Service
  • ESR Business Intelligence
  • ESR Familiarisation
  • HR
  • Learning Administration
  • Local System Administration
  • Manager and Supervisor Self Service
  • Payroll Administration
  • Performance Management Plans

This content, alongside the ESR User Manual self-help guidance, is maintained by a dedicated Technical Author who works as part of the ESR Education Team.

The Technical Author also produces the Guide to Enhancements that is published following a system release - outlining where functionality has been enhanced for users. All of the ESR education material is reviewed and updated in line with these changes, ensuring that accurate, up-to-date, clear and concise guidance is provided for ESR users.

Hot-Topic/Ad-Hoc Webinars

These sessions are offered in addition to the ongoing delivery of the RTI End of Year and P11D sessions, provided to support organisations each year:

  • Payrolling Benefits in Kind (BIK)
  • Reconciliation
  • Overview of Payroll Processing
  • Multiple Assignments
  • HMRC XML Processing
  • Managing Absences
  • Payroll Exceptions
  • Rehires
  • Retro Pay
  • RTI Workshop
  • Workstructures
  • Portal Administration

Since October 2020 we have delivered 68 targeted webinars, attended by 2383 system users (up to November 2022).

The NHS BSA ESR Regional Communication and Engagement Teams further complement all of this by providing additional targeted regional webinars, giving ESR users a truly holistic education experience. In 2022 the regional events have been attended by 3608 system users.

It was an enjoyable event with the right amount of content for the allocated time. Being able to view the Test Environment via screen share was very helpful. The Facilitator was extremely knowledgeable and delivered the content at a speed that was easy for all delegates to keep up with and allowed for lots of opportunity to ask questions along the way during scheduled stop points/breaks

Stockport NHS Foundation Trust

Overall, very good. Plenty of opportunities to ask questions, and these were answered clearly. Beneficial to have instructions, a demonstration and then a re-cap on each section, and great to have copies of the presentation afterwards. Thank you so much -

University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation

The course was excellently delivered and having attended classroom-based sessions over the years, the webinar was highly effective!

South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust

Information about the Education webinars offered by the ESR Education Team and the NHSBSA ESR Regional Communication and Engagement Team is available via the ESR Events Calendar on the ESR Hub website -, along with details about how to register.

ESR Hub Events Calendar

If you want to know more about the ESR Education offering or have a question, please contact

Verification of Personal Information and Equality & Diversity Data

Equality and Diversity - why your details are recorded

Under the terms of the Equality Act 2010 all Public Sector Employers, including the NHS, are obliged to ensure that employees are not discriminated against, harassed, or victimised on the grounds of a number of Protected Characteristics.

ESR enables the recording and reporting of data to help organisations demonstrate compliance with equality legislation. It also assists in comparing the experiences of staff in the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) and Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES), and in determining action where necessary.


A number of enhancements have been delivered which have successfully helped to improve data quality relating to personal information and Equality and Diversity (E&D) data as well as improving the integrity of the data held within ESR:

Employee Self Service – has given employees direct access to their own record which empowers them to manage their own information. Data shows that E&D completion rates are higher for employees who have logged into ESR at least once in the previous 12 months.

Portlets – My Personal Information and My Equality and Diversity portlets are available for employees so that they can review and update their details easily.

Data Quality Reporting – organisations can report on a vast array of data quality issues including missing personal and E&D data using ESR Business Intelligence (BI).

Data Quality Education/Resources – a wealth of Data Quality education and resources have been published to support organisations in identifying issues and the steps they can take to make further improvements.

The changes to ESR, combined with the work being undertaken nationally and locally to address data quality issues, has resulted in a significant increase in data completion.

Green Arrow
  • In 2015 only around 60% of employees disclosed their religious belief and sexual orientation. As of August 2022, this figure has risen to 72% and 77% respectively.
  • Around only 7% of employees have blank records for sexual orientation and religious belief compared with over 15% in 2015.
  • 98% of all employees have an Ethnic Origin recorded in ESR.
  • Over 75,000 employees have declared a disability in ESR, compared with just 35,000 in 2015.


    To further help improve employee data quality a development was delivered in September 2022 to prompt employees to view and, if required, update their personal and equality and diversity information. To facilitate this a status indicator has been added to the My Personal Information and My Equality & Diversity Portlets. The indicator will change colour, dependant on the length of time since the employee last updated or verified their personal and equality information.

    Red Amber Green

    • A verify my information button has been added to both Portlets to enable employees to record that they have verified their information where no changes are required.
    • The last update or verification date will also be included on the Portlet.
    • The date will be reset following a verification or an update made to any of the details by the employee via the Portlets or Self-Service forms or made by a professional user or manager.
    • The status bar will have help text to explain the logic of the colour coding and the actions required by the employee.
    • An employee notification will be triggered where the employee has not updated or verified their personal or equality and diversity information within the last 12 months (365 days).
    • Organisations will be able to report on the last updated/verified data through ESR BI (This functionality will follow in a later release).


    This development will help to increase completion rates of key data items that are required to enable national equality monitoring such as WRES and WDES.

    In the first two months following deployment over 240,000 updates or verifications were made in relation to personal details. Additionally, over 125,000 were made in relation to Equality & Diversity information.

    Automating the prompt to the employee via a notification will help to reduce the burden on individual organisations that currently attempt to address Data Quality issues through local communications and time-consuming manual data validation processes.

    Additionally, the change to the Portlets to add a visible status bar will drive further usage through this route and mean that more employees will view and update their data in a simpler and more efficient way.

    The change enables organisations to identify individuals who have not verified their details for a significant period of time.

    Helen Pope, Workforce Intelligence Manager, Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust highlighted the benefits this can bring to organisations:

    The portlets currently available for Equality & Diversity and Personal Details are great as they already simplify processes for users, especially those who are not so IT confident. The development to encourage users to check these on an annual basis will be brilliant as since moving to online payslips staff do not think about updating home addresses so much and contacts often get forgotten. It will also make the run-up for National Staff Survey and WRES / WDES submissions much less hectic for the workforce team as the update reminders will be spread across the year – I can’t wait to promote the development via our Staff Networks and Trust newsletters.

    Further Information

    Further details of this enhancement can be found in Guide to Enhancements and Changes Release

    If you have any queries then please contact your NHSBSA ESR Functional Account Manager. Visit the ESR Hub website - for their contact details.

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