Introducing flexibility at Portsmouth Hospitals
Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust employ over 7,200 staff providing services for approximately 675,000 residents across Portsmouth and South East Hampshire and care for many people beyond.
The main acute site is Queen Alexandra Hospital where a range of outpatient and diagnostic facilities are available at community sites and local treatment centres in the region. The Trust also provides regional cancer services to more than 2 million people and the largest MoD Hospital Unit treating current and former members of the armed forces and their families, and training clinicians.
It is widely recognised that offering flexible working opportunities can support both recruitment and retention strategies, and many Trusts have capitalised on the positive flexibilities achieved throughout the pandemic. Portsmouth Hospitals University Trust recognised that to grow and develop a diverse, happy, and responsive workforce, it was essential that the organisation committed fully to embracing the opportunities that flexible working could offer.
Linking to both Trust strategic objectives, and the wider NHS People Promise, the commitment was made to review and reshape our current policy and associated processes to flexible working, with the aim of empowering managers to start with “yes” to all requests, regardless of role, band and staff group, before working through how the service provision can adapt – flexibility by default was the aim, with no requirement of justification as to the why.
As part of the implementation of our flexible working project, we used the Enablers of Flexible Working framework, as developed by NHS Employers, to identify gaps in our current offering, risks to the success of the project, and the deliverables that we needed to action in order to meet our ambition of being a flexible employer.
As part of this, we participated in the pilot of the NHS Flex for the Future programme, using guidance from this scheme of work to facilitate listening events with staff, review job design and pre-existing processes, enabling us to build an action plan on how to deliver this project long term. As part of this, we designed the role of the Flexpert, a network of people trained in helping to facilitate constructive flexible working conversations with both our employees and managers. Understanding that flexibility is about our culture as an organisation, as much as it is about the process, having experts within each division in a variety of roles allowed for wider scope and volume of conversations, as well as embedding these conversations within our appraisals, inductions, and recruitment.
Our current team of Flexperts consists of 30 individuals from across a range of teams and roles who have been externally trained in the variety of flexible working opportunities available, as well as how managers can manage these requests. We plan to continue recruiting to this team in 2023, increasing their representation across our clinical and non-clinical teams.
Since launching the project in the summer of 2022, we have seen an increase in the number of flexible requests, as can be seen below:
To appropriately manage this process, we automated the flexible working request activity via ESR Self Service. This allowed the organisation to increase accessibility for employees and managers, as well as providing a top-level analysis of the types of requests being made. The reports generated provide us with in-depth information that we would not have had access to if this had been a paper process and continues to allow us to deep dive into the status of flexible working at Portsmouth; and deliver a level of scrutiny for each request.
Whilst still in the early stages of roll out, flexible working is now a conversation happening from board to ward with a shared vision and clear statement about what flexible working means at Portsmouth. We are excited to continue developing our flexible working offering to all employees here at PHU.