Learn News Opinion

Thinking outside the box

Melanie Weatherley, Chief Executive, Walnut Care

LEGO: the building blocks of our rota system

Walnut Care is a domiciliary care agency in Lincolnshire and they use LEGO to plan their 600,000 home visits a year. This is a great example of how Walnut Care ‘think outside the box’ to plan their staffing to ensure they have enough of the right people.

Their Chief Executive, Melanie Weatherley, explains how this helps them to plan their staffing to ensure they have enough of the right staff to meet the needs of their service.

“It’s important to have the right number of the right staff, with the right values, to deliver high quality and safe care and support.

Not having enough staff can put the people you support at risk and put your existing workforce under unnecessary pressure.

We manage over 600,000 home visits every year so it’s vital that we have trust in our processes, to ensure we have enough staff to meet this demand.

I know how many hours of care we need every week and how many staff we’ve got – and I use LEGO to plan our staffing.

I come from an accountancy background and we used LEGO to plan who was doing which audits and when. We found that this same principle can be applied to managing a care service.

We split care visits up by the travel routes that our staff take, and write on a post-it note the different visits we need to do on that route. We then build this in LEGO.

Each point on the brick represents a five minute block of care and we use different coloured bricks to represent the different villages we operate in. We then allocate staff to each block of LEGO and identify if there are any gaps.

We can then easily transfer this information into our computer system which automates our staff rota.

We’ve found that having a visual representation really helps us to plan our staffing.

For example, during times when we’re at risk of staff shortages, such as school holidays, it’s quick and easy for me to manage staff holiday requests and find cover for shifts.

It sits on the wall in our office so staff can easily shuffle visits around if people ask us to fit in extra visits or we get new clients. This means that we don’t waste time and resources replanning visits every week.

A few years ago we were cut off by snow which meant staff couldn’t do some of their visits. As part of our contingency plan when this happens, we give everyone a rating of:

  • red – for people who need to be visited, but on time
  • amber – for people who need to be visited but the timing could be flexible
  • green – for people who have family and/or could manage with less support in times of emergency.

I was able to quickly transfer these ratings onto the blocks to see where we needed to cover shifts. We have a good relationship with other social care, health and emergency service providers who helped to cover our visits. Having the LEGO there meant I could quickly tell them which visits to cover whilst they were on the phone.”

Walnut Care features in Skills for Care’s new ‘Safe staffing guide’ which explains what the CQC looks for in terms of safe staffing, and how regulated services can meet these regulations.

It has practical tips and case studies to help you decide how many staff you need, plan your staffing and ensure they’re competent to deliver safe care and support.

Download your copy of the guide at www.skillsforcare.org.uk/safestaffing.









Edel Harris





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