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Sharing best practice at the Emergency Services Roster Review Seminar 

On the 27th June Working Time Solutions hosted a unique event for Emergency Services focused on designing dynamic rosters that respond to changing demand profiles.

The interactive day included a range of presentations, round table discussions and practical workshops.

The event gave delegates the opportunity to engage directly with peers and experts around best practice approaches and hear engaging case studies on recent implementations. There was a real sense in the room that Emergency Services benefited by coming together to share learnings in this particularly complex and sensitive area of change management.

The morning sessions

The day opened with a summary of the challenges and opportunities a roster review presents with a focus on worker wellbeing and meeting performance targets.

The following session provided practical guidance on effective communications and engagement within a roster review. James Lloyd-Davies (3cPR) looked at how best to secure participation and buy-in for the process, whilst mitigating risk and encouraging a change-ready mindset.

This led perfectly into a practical interactive exercise led by WTS’s expert consultants that focused on the importance of engaging with employees to create core principles at the beginning of a roster review. 

Delegates were split into two groups with one group considering what the core principles would look like from an employee perspective and the other group looked at it from a management angle. While there were some different priorities there were also clear synergies demonstrating the mutual objectives of such a review. Participants discussed key elements such as planning, union relationships, core principles, working parties and continuous improvement. 

We were also joined by Matthew Briggs, HR Strategic Partner at the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) who described how MCA implemented a Demand-Led Rostering system that helped the organisation to efficiently meet significant variations in demand across time frames and diverse geographical operating patches. 

Central to the adoption of this new resourcing model was employee engagement. Matthew described how WTS consultants created a working party to communicate with employees around the strategic requirement and the benefits that would be delivered. It also enabled employees to engage in the process through helping co-create efficient team sizes and optimised shifts and make useful recommendations on how best to consult staff and implement necessary changes. 

Delegates learnt how, by modelling demand and designing and managing optimised shift patterns through the advanced workforce management software,WORKSuite® the organisation was able to manage costs, reduce long shifts which enhanced work-life balance, protect vital skills and maintain service levels.

The afternoon sessions

The afternoon sessions began with a presentation from Gareth Hughes, Head of Resourcing at London Ambulance Service (LAS) who gave his top tips for a successful roster review. He described how LAS implemented 200 new frontline rosters across 70 ambulance stations, releasing an additional 3,414 people hours. Delegates heard how rationalising rosters and aligning them to demand presented an opportunity to improve the wellbeing and work-life balance of paramedics and other shift workers.

Gareth’s top tips included:

  • Ensure realistic timeframes and contingency
  • Consider the time of year the new rosters will go live
  • Ensure you have stakeholder buy-in (executive leadership team, unions, management team and staff)
  • Understand and challenge demand
  • Communicate clearly, consistently and constantly

Delegates then took part in a second practical interactive exercise led by WTS’s expert consultants. Splitting into two groups and using the core principles created in the earlier exercise, each group was tasked with generating a shift pattern using WTS WORKSuite® software. 

While the demand profile was the same for each group, the first group had to include 12 hour shifts within the pattern and the second group couldn’t use shifts greater than 10 hours in duration. Upon completion, the groups reviewed the shift patterns created and discussed which core principles caused difficulties in the process and whether any additional core principles would have helped to support the design process.  

The day closed with a panel chaired by Robert Crossman, Director at Working Time Solutions, that gave delegates the opportunity to share their experiences and ask questions of the panellists  (Gareth Hughes, Head of Resourcing at London Ambulance Service, Rob Ashford - Deputy Director of Operations at East of England Ambulance Service, Stuart Crichton - Assistant Director of Operational Service Improvement at London Ambulance Service and Andy Dugdale - Associate Consultant at Working Time Solutions and previously worked for Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service). 

Questions to the panel explored some of the key challenges in the future including recruitment & retention and new workforce demographics.


In the current climate, designing and managing dynamic and responsive rosters is a key strategic consideration for all emergency services organisations.

The Roster Review Seminar was conceived specifically to help emergency services gain a solid understanding of the best practice approach which has proven effective in recent roster reviews.

We’d like to thank all those who attended and contributed to the day’s success.

If you’d like to know more about how our software and expertise is being harnessed by Emergency Services, explore this site or contact us now. 

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