The Countess of Chester Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

The Countess of Chester Hospitals NHS Foundation 
Trust - Empowering, Innovating and Transforming using ESR Self Service


The HR and Wellbeing Business Services (HRWBS) have now fully implemented ESR Manager, Supervisor and Administrator Self-Service for the Countess of Chester NHS Foundation Trust (COCH). From the outset, the Trust has utilised the full functionality of Self Service, in addition to integrating the OLM / e-Learning functionality, and their drive has positioned them as one of the leaders across the North West region in rolling out aspects of ESR Self Service and other elements of ESR which many other Trusts are still to maximise the use of. Consequently, the full employee life-cycle from hiring a new employee through to ending employment is managed by using ESR Self Service within COCH.After the launch of our shared HR service in July 2011, we moved from providing HR and Payroll services for 4,000 employees and are now providing HR and Payroll services to over 16,000 employees across a number of client Trusts in the Wirral and Cheshire region, which includes the rollout of Manager Self Service at Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and a pilot of Supervisor & Employee Self Service to another client Trust.The Countess of Chester went live on ESR in April 2007 and integrated the launch of OLM at the same time. After an 18 month ‘bedding in’ period, we conducted a review of processes and compared the use of ESR Self Service against the proposed benefits of 3rd party Time & Attendance and e-Rostering suppliers. There were clear qualitative and efficiency benefits to be gained, so before we made any significant investment in additional software, we explored using ESR. Before the roll out, we reviewed our processes which were, in the majority, paper based for data entry by the Payroll team. A combination of paper flows, retrospective workforce reporting, data input and reliance on senior management to sign off paper forms was creating delays in the processes and this was not only inefficient but often the wrong people were burdened with administrative tasks.To support the Self Service project and improve team work across back office functions, we also implemented the following; - Establishment control in December 2010 - Vacancy control / standardised recruitment practicesJanuary 2013 - User Identity Management (UIM) / ESR Interface - January 2011 Maximising the use of Interfaces to support recruitment & registration management - Integrated E-Learning - Electronic timesheets via WEB ADIDuring the early stages, we effectively managed the change in culture of maintaining HR records across the Trust and also within the back office functions of Payroll, HR and Finance. Where we saw opportunities for improvements, we submitted an enhancement request for consideration to the SIG and as part of that process the changes were made to Employee Change Event Log to improve the usefulness of the report. As our data was input retrospectively, all our workforce reports were in relation to the previous month. This meant that the data being reported was out of date when it was published and managers were often revisiting work they had recently completed. In addition, we were experiencing notable retrospective corrections of salary as late documentation resulted in corrections the following month. Since the roll out of Self Service, we have seen the average retrospective corrections per month drop from 180 to less than 70 and this is largely attributed to efficient processes and less delays due to secondary sign off.To manage the shift from data input to auditing changes made by Self Service users, we use tailored Change Event reports shared with Finance, Payroll and HR which also informs senior managers of changes made by their delegated Self Service users, resulting in a slicker process of management by exception.The Trust was segmented into a pilot and then a three phased roll out over an 18 month period, in which each manager would receive face-to-face training and a comprehensive set of guidance notes. Our training covered hiring an employee, all contractual changes, learning & development and management of workflow within ESR. 

Benefits to Date

We worked closely with our Account Manager and the NHS ESR Central Team to ensure our processes remained a benefit to the organisation as well as a benefit against the business case, which included supporting NHSLA & CQC requirements, supporting users and staff to ultimately aid patient care, and to comply with our Internal Auditors requirements. As a result, in January 2012, we received significant assurance from our Internal Auditors and were commended for our use of the system and improving key controls in this area. 

During the roll out, we experienced major changes in the makeup of our service and have used ESR Self Service to help effectively TUPE whole organisations, including Ellesmere Port Hospital, into our payroll provision. We are now a leading HR and Payroll service provider getting the maximum benefits from using ESR.

Prior to Self-Service, managers were responsible for completing a combination of 8 different HR forms or spread-sheets, sent to multiple departments in the Trust. A key benefit in the project justification was a reduction in the amount of time and disparate January 2013processes managers were subject to, so without duplicating work each user has transferred immediately from old process to the new, therefore enabling them to prioritise their workload on patient care.

Each month’s workforce information reports are published to the Trust which out-line each department’s performance relating to absence management, training and appraisals. Managers now have ownership of their data and as such can ensure that employee records are up to date. Below is an example of the shift of appraisal data being input by HR and Self-Service users highlighting the usage of the system, particularly in August 2010 where the split was even, to 2012 where the input by the central team is significantly lower. In addition, the timeliness of input shows us that managers are realising a more even distribution of work across the summer months for this as opposed to the spike in appraisal input compared to 2010:

We have found that comparing the months preceding November 2009 to November 2011, our compliance rates have increased in the following areas:


Compliance Area20092012% Increase
Appraisals Averagebelow 52%above 68%16%
Mandatory Risk Management Trainingbelow 80%above 85%5%
Local Inductionbelow 77%above 85%8%

Self Service users have access to enrol staff onto our suite of OLM courses and competencies and managers have fed back that this is a significant benefit with direct access and a slicker process. In addition, having access to the record history has proved to be very useful for managers.

The Countess of Chester has undergone a significant push in managing absence and having access to inputting this data at source, has improved the overall management and awareness of the data.

Before Self-Service, the Trust’s Sickness Absence 12 month average was 4.52%.

However, the current Sickness Absence 12 month average is now 4.07%, a reduction of 0.45%.

Although a combination of initiatives has resulted in the absence percentage going down, we can attribute elements of this reduction to Self Service, as the access to and ownership of the data enables a manager to focus on the process when its needed and not retrospectively.In the early stages of the project the impression of Self Service was often that it would result in additional work or loss of control, particularly in the Payroll team. With strong direction from our Executive Sponsor, the project team managed the change and effectively led the introduction of key controls to ensure employees records remained accurate and were not adversely affected by Self Service. This helped reassure our stakeholders and get their buy in as the controls we introduced alleviated initial concerns and benefits to Self Service were clear from the outset moving from old processes to new.

As processes in the Payroll, HR, Finance and Education teams have been affected by the project, we have realised improved communication and interdependencies between the teams. A suite of Standard Operating Procedures and a sound understanding of the project resulted in the KPIs of advance & overpayments of salary reducing from an average 36 per month over the twelve months leading up to Self Service, to an average of 23 per month during the roll out. In addition, we have found that running training sessions with each team has helped refresh skills and knowledge of the Trust’s HR policies and processes.

"ESR is proving to be a key source of our workforce information, enabling us to make informed strategic decisions and monitoring. Allowing Trust Managers the opportunity to ensure their own workforce information is accurate, via Self-Service, we have strengthened an already pro-active attitude towards employee record ownership."

Susan Young, Director of HR and OD

Lessons Learned

We have one piece of advice - engage with your stakeholders before any training takes place. We had a good Executive sponsor for the project, which was critical to us successfully influencing senior management to buy into the project. Often the impression of Self Service is not a positive one until a user receives training and experiences first hand that it isn't additional workload, but a transition onto a live system. It is important that the processes are in place to ensure the transition is smooth.

As the take up of Self Service gathers speed, it is extremely useful to have a network of contacts to share experiences and knowledge. In comparison to 2009, when we began our project, the positive profile of Self Service is far greater, and working with colleagues from other Trusts has made the roll out a lot easier to manage.

Opportunities for the Future

As a result of the recent User Notice regarding the removal of the requirement for a smartcard for access to Employee Self Service, we will be exploring the options around rolling out ESS within the Trust. In addition, we are constantly challenging our ways of working and looking for new opportunities to support users both within the trusts we currently support and others.

For More Information

The team are more than happy to be contacted and to share their experiences of rolling out Self Service & other aspects of ESR.

Please contact or:

Allan Axon, HR Business Service Development and Compliance Manager, Tel: 01244 364643, Email:

Steven Gregg-Rowbury, Service Development Specialist, Tel: 01244 364184, Email:

Sue Hodkinson, Head of HR & Wellbeing Business Services, Tel: 01244 364678, Email: