Health and care bill must strengthen workforce planning

Amendment to clause 33 of the bill would enable the health and care sector to ensure it can meet patient demand now and in future, say leaders.

9 September 2021

Leading health and care organisations have proposed an amendment to the health and care bill that would require the Secretary of State to publish biennial assessments of current and future workforce numbers, consistent with the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) long-term fiscal projections.

Doing so would provide the best foundations to take long-term decisions about funding, workforce planning, regional shortages and the skill mix needed to help the system keep up with patient need.

‘Falls short’

In a letter to minister of health Ed Argar and other MPs, the NHS Confederation, alongside the Royal College of Physicians, British Medical Association, Royal College of Nursing, NHS Providers, Macmillan Cancer Support and others, explain that amending clause 33 in this way would strength workforce planning, enabling the service to ensure it can meet patient demand now and in future. 

Clause 33 currently sets out a new duty for the Secretary of State to publish a report once a parliament ‘describing the system in place for assessing and meeting the workforce needs of the health service in England’. While this new legal duty will bring clarity on the process of workforce planning, it falls short of what is needed given the scale of the challenge facing the health and care system.

In its current form, clause 33 means the system still will not know whether it is training and retaining enough people to deliver health and care services now and in the future.

Consistency with OBR projections

The joint letter, sent ahead of the first hearing of the Health and Care Bill Public Bill Committee on 7 September, proposes an amendment to the clause, so that every two years the Secretary of State must also publish independently verified assessments of current and future workforce numbers consistent with the OBR long-term fiscal projections.

Basing staff numbers on these OBR projections will ensure that the health and care service has the staff numbers required to deliver the work the OBR estimates the sector will need to carry out in future.

The letter forms part of the NHS Confederation’s wider programme of work to influence the bill as it passes through parliament.