The NHS Interim People Plan (IPP) sets out the importance of the NHS engaging with councils in their local areas to help build economic prosperity, something NHS Confederation has also been advocating for some time, writes Richard Griffin of the North West London Health and Care Partnership.
For the last two years I have been representing the NHS on the West London Employment and Skills Board run by the alliance of local councils. I sit in the board with other local employers such as Heathrow and HS2, as well as college and university representatives.
Securing the future health and social care workforce is a key priority for us in West London. One in ten people in the eight boroughs of West London work for a care employer (making health and care the largest single employer locally) but we have high vacancy and turnover rates – up to 35% in social care. Critically we are competing with other employers for a diminishing pool of local people.
Belonging to the board and working with local councils helps in a number of ways:
1. Let’s start with money.
Skills and employment are a devolved responsibility in a number of regions, including the Greater London Authority (GLA). Aligning our workforce needs the London Mayor
to provide access to resources. The GLA will shortly issue calls to London councils to bid for Strategic Investment Pool (SIP) funding, drawn from business rates. We are already benefiting from successful previous SIP bids, working, for example, with other West London employers, to design digital skills passports
locally. For the next SIP round (expected this autumn) the board will back a specific bid to support health and care employers work with local colleges to build capacity to up-skill the workforce and attract more local people into work. Employment in the NHS meets the Mayor's aspiration for Londoners to have access to well paid jobs and career progression, including for disadvantaged groups. A win-win.*
2. Furthermore, closer working with councils provides access to their expertise and knowledge. For us in West London, this has been most beneficial in seeking to create supported employment opportunities for disadvantaged groups such as SEND young people, adults with autism, ex-offenders and care leavers, where the councils have connections with local agencies able to provide support to individuals seeking employment as well as awareness of relevant legislation and formal processes. Four of our ten trusts are providing a range of opportunities from traineeships to work experience to internships and soon, apprenticeships. That will grow this year. Employment rates are over 80%. Hospitals get great people to fill jobs that need doing and we close the disability-employment gap (currently just 46% of people with disabilities in London work, compared to 85% for those without disabilities). Other areas of partnership include: ESOL and functional skills and Technical (T) Levels.
3. The employment and skills issues that concern the NHS, such as school engagement, apprenticeships or functional skills, are no different to those faced by other employers. The West London skills board is not only an opportunity to share strategy but also to work with other employers, for example in how we engage with schools or attract and support older workers back into work (41% of women over 50 years old in London for example are not in work). Rather than compete with the likes of Heathrow we are discussing how to cooperate and collaborate. In tight labour markets this really makes sense.
4. Lastly there is an opportunity to discuss other issues related to but not directly about jobs, like transport and London as a 24-hour city. Many care workers work shifts that finish in the night or early morning. Things like transport links and being able to grab a meal after work matter. Housing in London is a real issue. The board and its links provide a forum to draw these things together, as part of the council’s wider economic growth strategy.
The NHS Confederation has long advocated and supported the NHS engaging with local authorities. There are good reasons for this. The benefits seem clear to me. Councils with partners will soon be creating Local Industrial Strategies. As often the biggest employer in an area, as well as its wider role in promoting health and wellbeing, the NHS needs to get involved, shape and participate.
Richard Griffin MBE works with the North West London Health and Care Partnership and is also a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Kings College London. Follow him at @rgriffinskill
*SIP funding will be open to bids from councils across London including sub regional bids. The last call was for around £45million.