Blog post

A framework for the future – calling for evidence

Help to inform Health Education England’s commission to review trends for the health and, for the first time ever, social care workforce.  
Dr Navina Evans

18 August 2021

What insights can you and your organisation offer to help shape our future NHS workforce?

This past year has been, without a doubt, one of the toughest years in the history of the NHS, and has renewed focus on keeping our NHS strong and ready to care for the population of England. I am immensely proud of what we have achieved together despite the many obstacles and additional challenges we have faced. I am also incredibly proud to be part of shaping the future health and care workforce. With this, we have been entrusted with something fundamental to the lives and wellbeing of so many people, many of whom haven’t even been born yet.  

Workforce commission

Health Education England (HEE) has recently been commissioned to work with our partners to review long-term strategic trends for the health and social care workforce. The Long-Term Strategic Framework for Health and Social Care Workforce Planning will review, renew and update HEE’s Framework 15 published in 2014, to help ensure we have the right numbers, skills, values and behaviours to deliver world-leading clinical services and continued high standards of patient care. For the first time ever, the framework will also include registered professionals working in social care, such as nurses and occupational therapists. We are calling on organisations and individuals to get involved in our Call for Evidence, which is open until 6 September. 

Our work is both around rethinking what the service will look like, and delivering the transformation that is needed.

The job of the NHS has always been to think about today and tomorrow, and connecting our predictions for ‘tomorrow’ with today’s actions. Discussions about our NHS workforce are now at the forefront of many conversations happening today, and our role in this as HEE is to be the convener, holding discussions and bringing everyone together to help people across the system think about the NHS workforce in the short, medium, and long term.  

Our work is both around rethinking what the service will look like, and delivering the transformation that is needed. Planning for the future is complex, and our teams consider a number of drivers of change within the six categories below. These are used to help structure the conversation in our call for evidence survey

  1. Demographics and disease.
  2. Public, people who need care and support, patient and carer expectations. 
  3. Socio-economic and environmental factors. 
  4. Staff and student/trainee expectations.
  5. Science, digital, data and technology (including genomics). 
  6. Service models and pandemic recovery. 

It is vital that we gather as much evidence, from as many sources as possible.

An evidence-based strategy

Our workforce planning strategy is, in essence, interpretation based on what we know, considering the drivers above, addressing key questions and integrating many complex insights to form a bigger picture. Every time we commission a postgraduate place, nursing placement, or develop new roles, we are making assumptions about a future we cannot yet know. Therefore, these need to be founded in the best possible evidence base, which must come, not only from our own research and modelling, but also from across the system, including social care, as we build a system-wide strategy. It is vital that we gather as much evidence, from as many sources as possible, so that we can integrate this information into our planning to meet future demands across the service.  

In 27 years’ time the NHS will celebrate its 100th birthday. Students starting their courses today will be halfway through their careers and many will be senior leaders in health and social care. At that time, I will be in my 80s and will be looked after by many people. If we have done our job well, we can expect that this workforce will be quite different to what we see now; ready to meet the future demands of the service, which will also be different to what we see now.  

We want to hear from as many of you as possible to help us make this happen - I am calling on you to both share your views with us, and to spread the word across the health and social care system. Your knowledge and insight are extremely valuable and will ultimately help us to prepare the right workforce with the right skills for the future.  

What unique insights can you and your organisation offer to help shape our future NHS workforce? 

Dr Navina Evans is chief executive of Health Education England. Follow Navina on Twitter @NavinaEvans