Blog post

An NHS workforce plan that is fit for the future is needed to give staff hope

With pressures and understaffing leading to increased strain on the NHS, there is now high demand for support, investments and a clear workforce plan.
Danny Mortimer

14 March 2022

Danny Mortimer explains that while the NHS is still experiencing major staff shortages, health service leaders and their teams will be working hard to tackle the enormous backlog of non-COVID-19 care over the weeks, months and years to come.

Mounting NHS pressures

It’s no secret that the health service is understaffed, it went into the pandemic with 90,000 staff vacancies and, in the intervening two years, has unfortunately lost a further 9,000 on the last count.

Yet despite these numbers and the pressure and exhaustion staff have faced over an extraordinarily difficult 24 months, the NHS has continued to do its best to deliver for patients. Last year, 302,000 people were admitted to hospital with COVID-19, six million people sought treatment for other emergency health problems and NHS staff answered ten million 999 calls – the highest on record. Primary care has also witnessed a 20 per cent jump in footfall, treating nearly 30 million patients in December 2021 alone and let’s not forget the 138 million COVID-19 vaccinations NHS staff have given.

Supporting the NHS workforce

While NHS leaders, like the government, are prioritising addressing the delays in care, they also know that supporting our workforce and fostering positive employment practices and a culture that values staff must be at the heart of what we do.

The NHS has a vital part to play in supporting the health and wealth of their local communities, helping with the government’s focus on skills and broadening access to education

Leaders are also aware of the necessity to be prompt in ensuring they invest in and carefully manage vital international recruitment to fill vacancies in nursing and medicine. This includes continued efforts to improve productivity, use of technology and different ways of working to speed up access to treatment in every part of the NHS.

They also know that as the nation’s largest employer, the NHS has a vital part to play in supporting the health and wealth of their local communities, helping with the government’s focus on skills and broadening access to education including apprenticeships and creating opportunities.

There is still more for the government to do. The target that matters most is the one that confirms a workforce plan for the NHS. The Chancellor and Prime Minister must also urgently and clearly describe how their investments to date will help tackle vacancies and shore up an NHS workforce that is fit for the future. Weary healthcare staff need to be given hope that help is coming.

Danny Mortimer is deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation and chief executive of NHS Employers. Follow him and the organisations on Twitter @NHSE_Danny@NHSConfed@NHSEmployers