skip to main content

Bespoke solution for managing staff assignments

by Stuart Robertson : Innovate : Government Agency

NHS England

NHS England is the body that sets priorities and directions for the National Health Service in England. Its work includes commissioning health care services and the contracts for GPs, pharmacists, dentists and local health services.

The challenge

NHS England employs thousands of people, and as they are hired, change roles, promoted or leave the organisation, it’s important that all their associated records are keep up to date. Yet the mainframe-based system for achieving authorisation for changes in the workforce (known as the Establishment) was unfriendly, time-consuming and unreliable.

Anyone wanting to create a new position, change a grade, extend a contract or make any other change had to fill in an Excel spreadsheet. With no validation on the spreadsheet, fields were often missed, which meant the request would have to be returned for completion. For many submissions applicants needed to include a business case, but it was hard to work out, even with the use of the guidance provided, what needed tobe

completed. There was no automated process for routing the request to the appropriate people to authorise and approve the requests. As a result submissions werebeing delayed and sometimes lostentirely.

The solution

NHS England went out into the marketplace looking for a solution that would provide transparency, efficiency and an overall better service for those making changes. At the same time the team at NHS England was keen to “own” the solution so that it could make its own amendments rather than be dependant on an external supplier.

The final solution would have to satisfy a large number of stakeholders, and be delivered within a tight budget and schedule.

After looking at several workflow solutions and assessing costs and benefits, the organisation chose Microsoft SharePoint Online (Office 365) with the Nintex add-in for workflow automation.

This approach not only met the business requirements but the software was also already in use within the organisation so was familiar and trusted.

At the same time NHS England needed to find a partner that could implement the solution. A number of suppliers were evaluated on the basis of their size, experience with SharePoint and Nintex, willingness and ability to transfer skills, provision of a proven delivery methodology and value for money.

At the end of the evaluation process Microsoft Gold partner Deltascheme was selected by NHS England to implement the solution.

Deltascheme was involved in the project from end-to- end, beginning with engaging with multiple stakeholders to create an agreed design. During the course of the project Deltascheme provided a range of SharePoint and Nintex services.

The project included:

  • Creating SharePoint lists to hold the Establishment, which are refreshed on a daily basis from the mainframe via an interfaceprogramme
  • Delivering a bespoke form to present a view of the Establishment and allow changes to bemodelled
  • Setting up a Nintex workflow that is dynamically instructed on who to seek permission from basedupon the proposed changes and businessrules
  • Creating a SharePoint portal view of the system allowing a user to save and submit various requests for change and then be able to see their progress as they move through the authorisationworkflow.

The online form incorporates intelligence to implement the financial modelling and generate the instructions for the workflow. The solution uses various SharePoint lists to hold configuration data as well as loading external data into the users PC’s browser memory to deliver a highly responsive user experience.


NHS England has seen major improvements in the efficiency of the process and the accessibility of information.

Visibility is significantly better. Some 350 requests for changes are made monthly now. That includes requests for deletions as users can now see and manage outdated information.

The quality of requests is greatly improved. Validation means that all fields must be completed, and any required business case will be highlighted. Security is better too, as users are now required to have the requisite permissions and authorisations to request changes.

Endorsements are more efficient. Previously, requests were emailed to the management accountants, with budget holders copied in to the conversation. Now requests are automatically routed to budget holders to approve. Automation has also been applied to the calculation of costs of new positions, freeing up time for the management accountants who previously took on this task.

Approvals move faster. The requests are put before either local weekly panels or monthly senior panels. With the new system in place, panels are reducing the deadlines for delivering endorsed applications from three days to one day before panel meetings.

A single centralised storage of application data.With the system now holding all the data, it’s also much easier to create audit trails. Reporting is improving too, as manual spreadsheets are replaced by automated systems.

Importantly for NHS England, Deltascheme has shared its knowledge of SharePoint and Nintex with the inhouse team so that they can build out more workflow and forms solutions in the future.

"The working relationship has been brilliant. Deltascheme has been very flexible and supportive in helping us to meet very tight project deadlines"

Sally Wilford
Workforce Systems Development Manager
NHS England