HOSPITALS in Lancashire will play a key role in plans for apps which would allow NHS workers to book onto empty shifts.

The apps, being trialled by Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, could be rolled out across the country to reduce reliance on "expensive agency staff".

Under the trial, thousands of doctors, midwives and nurses at hospital trusts will be able to sign up to work extra hours using the technology and some could be paid for their time within just 24 hours.

The scheme, funded by the Department for Health and Social Care, hopes to improve flexible working for NHS staff and help hospitals respond better to increased demand.

Health minister Stephen Barclay said: "A modern NHS needs modern ways of working - and that means using the latest technology to give our dedicated staff more of a choice over how, when and where they want to work.

"We want to make sure they have the right work-life balance if they work extra shifts.

"This innovative trial is a win-win for everyone - it helps staff provide more consistent care for patients and gives them the flexibility they want in choosing their working patterns.

"It will also help the NHS reduce its reliance on expensive agency staff."

More than 100,000 healthcare professionals are currently signed up to "banks", the central systems run by trusts which allow employees to sign up for extra shifts on top of normal hours.

The new trial will run through banks at 15 trusts, with many enabling staff to use apps on their phones to receive notifications when shifts become available and sign up to work instantly.

Those who work extra shifts will be offered the option of being paid weekly and some trusts will allow staff to opt-out of pension arrangements so they can be paid more for additional work.

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust will roll out a dedicated mobile app and trial daily pay for staff who work extra hours.

Another app being trialled at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust will analyse hospital data to plan for spikes in patient demand and send notifications to staff to fill shifts.

The Government hopes the technology will encourage more people to sign up to banks instead of agencies.

The Department for Health and Social Care said the most successful elements of the apps will be rolled out across the NHS at the end of the trial.

London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust and East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust have also been selected for the trial.