As it stands right now, it is not controversial to say that the UK is experiencing an economic crisis – but what can be done to protect the stability of its public sector?
With Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement announcing sweeping cuts and tax rises for the majority of the country, there are very few areas of public services left untouched. Unfortunately for the public sector, official records are showing that they will be bearing the brunt of this crisis.
The effects of continued cuts
The Guardian recently reported that “across the economy, pay growth accelerated to 5.7% in the same period as workers sought to cover rising living costs and employers struggled to hire in a tight labour market. Total pay, including bonuses, was up 6% — the fastest pace outside the pandemic period since records began in 2001”. However, vitally, these wage increases are not being kept in line with inflation, which reached 10.1% in September 2022.
Not only do we see issues with real-term wages, but the true consequences of trimming down what might seem like ‘easy hits’ from public spendings, such as local government, can be detrimental. Local government offices run housing, health, and welfare services that are invaluable as members of the public across the UK find their costs rising beyond anything experienced for forty years. Cuts here would have huge ramifications for other public sector organisations, for example, the NHS. Right now, as many as one in three patients who are currently healthy enough to be discharged from hospital can’t be due to a chronic lack of social care.
In times like these, simply cutting corners is not an option. To increase profitability under these conditions while maintaining a high standard of care, the only option is to radically rethink day-to-day operations to deliver more with less.
What challenges is the public sector facing?
The primary challenges facing the public sector can be broken up into two main areas of focus – increased economic pressure and rising demand for services. During any economic crisis or recession, unemployment rises, and demand for public sector services like the NHS and social services increases tenfold. However, there is very rarely a relative increase in resources – in fact, the majority of the time, these increased pressures are combined with considerable budget cuts.
The Public Services Committee published a report earlier in 2022 entitled “Fit for the Future? Rethinking the public services workforce”, which identified key struggles facing the sector. The report found that public sector staffing was “facing a crisis” due to a “vicious circle” of increasing demand, staff shortages, and recruitment issues. Additionally, it was reported that current efforts to ease the strain on the industry were “far too small a scale” to make a difference.
Rethinking the day-to-day during an economic crisis
When the odds are stacked this high against those in the public sector, simply taking shortcuts or attempting to rework the same tired solutions is not an option. The only viable way to endure and even thrive in such difficult times is to think outside the box. As daunting as this can seem, this can be viewed as an opportunity to refocus on tech-led innovation. With resources stretched beyond capacity, it has never been more important to look for new methods and solutions that prioritise efficiency, productivity, and performance.
For instance, one of the greatest challenges facing the public sector today is the spiralling backlog still plaguing the sector. The intense pressures from the pandemic in combination with the long-term cuts put a vital strain on key services that has never eased and instead has continued to escalate to a critical point.
With the right software, people on the front-line can increase efficiency
In this circumstance, scheduling software is key. With the right software, people on the front-line – such as those in social care – can increase efficiency. For example, by providing mobile workers with instant access to their schedule on their mobile devices, you can eliminate the need for daily check-ins at a central office and instead allow employees to go straight to their first job. Additionally, these applications can also be utilised to record vital information at each location quickly and easily, reducing time spent on administrative duties and freeing up more time in the day for actual appointments.
Crucially, this kind of software allows for a better end-user experience by providing real-time updates on any schedule adjustments as they occur. For example, if a field service worker (e.g. a carer) is running late for an appointment, this information can be recorded and either update the end-user or reschedule another mobile worker to complete the job. Automating this process rather than having to manually input, assess, and address the problem saves crucial time.
There’s no doubt that times are incredibly tough and there’s a long road ahead for the public sector, but there are solutions available. Now is the time to look to new innovations, think outside the box, and focus on efficiency that doesn’t sacrifice the end-user experience.
This piece was written and provided by Chris Hornung, Managing Director of Public Sector at Totalmobile