Staff summer cover tips for UK healthcare practices

Staff in UK healthcare practices are no different to everyone else when it comes to taking summer vacations, but what happens when this results in staff shortages?

Proper planning can help you combat the possibility of staff shortages that many UK healthcare practices will face during the summer months, but being proactive allows you to prevent disruptions in patient care, as well as avoid increased workloads and the possibility of burnout.

Why should UK healthcare practices proactively plan for summer staff cover?


Balancing workloads across workers while maintaining high-quality healthcare services can be a challenge during the summer vacation. Some UK healthcare practices may not see the necessity of this process, but getting everything to run smoothly without all staff on hand can lead to a potential disaster.

While healthcare workers need their regular breaks, it is also important to ensure that they can take their leave without worrying about impending heavy workloads or other negative consequences when they return. By preparing in advance, you can potentially prevent the dreaded summertime landslides brought on by staff shortages. 

Implementing a proactive and strategic approach to summer cover planning is the easiest way to prepare for regular staff leave.

Here are a few main reasons you need to adequately plan in advance:

Maintaining consistent patient care.

Patients require a consistent, reliable healthcare system to receive the best treatment and outcomes. By preparing in advance, adequate staffing can be maintained with flawless turnover between staff going on holiday and staff covering for them, preventing interruptions to patient care.

Prioritising patient safety.

The safety of patients is a high priority. Ensuring your healthcare practice has enough qualified personnel available to not only cover the staff on holiday but also keep up with the number of appointments for any specialisation is essential.

Secure service level standards.

Even when working with reduced staff during peak holiday seasons, the standard of patient care and essential services should still be maintained. UK healthcare practices that plan for summer cover prevent a decline in the quality of care and ensure patients have access to necessary services. This consistency helps retain patient loyalty as well.

Supporting staff well-being.

While patient care and service standards are the highest priority, UK staff needs to be able to take summer leave without worrying about staff shortages. Ensuring employee satisfaction is essential because it directly relates to life satisfaction and job retention – things that all UK healthcare practices need to value with the ongoing healthcare staff shortages.

Now that you know why summer cover planning is essential for UK healthcare practices, you can confidently take steps to prevent any issues with staff, patient care or service delivery over the vacation period.

Here are our top 8 summer cover planning tips for UK healthcare practices:

  1. Coordinate vacations early.

Your first step to knowing what your healthcare practice will look like during the summer months is to talk openly with your staff. Ensure that regular staff have their holidays booked or preferred vacation dates to plan ahead of time. By doing so you will have a clear idea of your staffing needs. Make sure to also remind staff about booking their leave early as late requests can be denied.


  1. Incentivise your staff.

Reward systems are a great way to create a healthy and satisfying work environment and can also help reduce the number of staff that need cover. These UK summer cover incentives should be for staff who are willing to work or take on additional responsibilities during these peak holiday periods when their colleagues are on leave. Incentives can include financial bonuses, additional time off or other perks. Not only do these incentives increase morale but they also facilitate teamwork.


  1. Communicate with patients.

Clear and transparent communication with your patients is just as important as transparency with agencies and staff. It helps manage patient expectations, maintains trust and will help avoid any disruptions to your services. Ensure you communicate rescheduling options for appointment shuffles or help them make alternative arrangements if needed.


  1. Streamline scheduling practices.

It is critical to distribute the workload during periods of reduced staff numbers.  Review how your healthcare practice handles appointment scheduling during the vacation period to ensure you can extend appointment intervals, temporarily limit non-essential services, or offer more evening or weekend hours.

  1. Leverage internal resources.

Gaps in staff rotation can be the biggest hurdle to overcome during summer holidays. Act early to fill those gaps before staff go on vacation. Always look for internal solutions first. If existing salaried staff can cover the gaps safely, while maintaining their work-life balance and avoiding burnout, then it is a viable option for cover. If internal staff cannot cover the summer staffing gaps, reach out to locums or UK healthcare professionals from nearby practices, Primary Care Networks (PCNs) or your local Integrated Care Board (ICB) to explore their availability.

  1. Find a trusted agency.

This option can ensure that your healthcare practice always has an equipped team. A reputable UK healthcare staffing agency like MCG Healthcare will help you with efficient summer staff cover. Make agency needs to be aware of your requirements and expectations, as well as potential alternative routes your practice may be exploring. A trusted agency can work collaboratively with UK healthcare agencies, manage locum expectations and cancel shifts, if needed, without hidden charges or last-minute disruptions.

  1. Create contingency plans.

Being prepared for unexpected emergencies is necessary. Have backup lists of available locums and cross-training staff in case your contingent are suddenly unavailable. Create partnerships with nearby local healthcare practices for mutual support during summer months.

  1. Evaluate and improve.

You can always learn from past experiences. After applying these changes, it is important to fine-tune the planning process for your healthcare practice needs. Gather feedback and review the effectiveness of your summer cover planning from staff and patients. Transparently analyse data on staffing levels, scheduling and service delivery and identify where improvement is needed next year. Also, review data from past years to provide insights into staffing trends and needs during summer periods to allow for more effective planning.

Leading with transparency and planning around the work-life balance of staff and quality of care and service delivery for patients are essential to ensure adequate summer cover. But building strong rapport doesn’t end there. You also need to ensure you have trusted agencies, practices or partnerships that can help summer staff shoulder the workload and create better access to qualified healthcare professionals.

Strengthen your summer staffing cover plan with MCG Healthcare

Partnering with a recruitment agency that is experienced and equipped to fill summer staffing gaps for UK healthcare practices is your best option. With readily available qualified healthcare professionals, you can prepare in advance when evaluating vacation requests and be able to have a dependable talent-solutions specialist with candidates actively looking to be placed in those temporary or permanent roles.

For comprehensive staffing solutions, MCG Healthcare can pair capable talent with UK healthcare practices throughout the year.

Partner with MCG Healthcare today.

About the author
Ash Higgs Managing Director

Ash Higgs is the Managing Director of MCG Healthcare. He has a long-demonstrated history working in recruitment and has now been involved in the medical industry for over 5 years. During this time, he has gained a strong understanding of the issues that both Primary & Secondary Care are facing regarding the recruitment of healthcare professionals.

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