No Time to Lose: Opportunities and Priorities for Northern Ireland’s HSC Workforce

A roundtable report exploring system priorities and opportunities for the future of Northern Ireland’s Health and Social Care workforce.

18 October 2023

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Our rapidly changing global landscape has increased pressures on the healthcare workforce around the world, as demand for health and care services increasingly outstrips supply. Northern Ireland has not been immune to the impacts of this shift, and there is an ever-growing consensus that we must find new ways of adjusting to this ‘new normal’, particularly in a post-pandemic world.

With system pressures in Northern Ireland at an all-time high and multi-year budgets an almost distant memory, it is vital that we take time to consider what more can be done within our existing structures and strategies to build a workforce that is truly fit for the future and can adapt to these pressures and, indeed, respond to future potential public health crises.

Against this backdrop, on 8th September 2023, leaders from across Northern Ireland’s Health and Social Care (HSC) system came together to discuss key opportunities and to agree on collective priorities to secure a robust, resilient, and agile HSC workforce.

Key actions to maximise our workforce today

Members agreed that there are significant opportunities to accelerate progress by building on existing policies and strategies and working as a system. These include:

▪ Developing effective and proactive workforce retention strategies
▪ Making HSC roles more attractive and removing barriers to recruitment
▪ Reducing agency spend and redirecting the associated savings
▪ Thinking ‘system’ not institution when it comes to recruitment and fostering a sense of belonging among staff on an HSC-wide - rather than individual organisation - level
▪ Exploring apprenticeships and associated funding pathways
▪ Harnessing data and developing intelligence to target our actions
▪ Strengthening engagement and opportunities for leadership

Key actions to ensure our workforce is 'fit for the future'

Recognising the globally emerging consensus on the future of the healthcare workforce, Northern Ireland’s system must implement a range of changes for the future. These include:

▪ Empowering our workforce and improving workplace experiences 
▪ Investment in new and changing roles
▪ Working as one system
▪ Furthering the prevention agenda by embracing the HSC’s role as a potential ‘anchor institution’
▪ Resource allocation and redirection