The big three health think tanks outline 5 tests for workforce in the upcoming long-term plan

policy digest

04 / 12 / 2018

The Healthcare workforce in England: Make or Break
The King’s Fund. Health Foundation, Nuffield Trust, November 2018

The three healthcare think tanks (The Kings Fund, the Health Foundation and Nuffield Health Foundation) have published a briefing which highlights key workforce challenges which need to be addressed by the Long-Term Plan.

The report sets out the scale of the staff shortages facing the NHS with a substantial and growing gap between numbers of staff in post and demand for healthcare services. The report calculates demand based on known estimates of population and health need and compares with current staff levels and planned increases. It estimates there will be a gap rising from the current 100 000 to 250 00. If trends such as more staff leaving earlier intensify and there is less success in international recruitment than anticipated the gap could rise to 350 000.  

Across NHS trusts there is a shortage of more than 100,000 staff. Based on current trends, we project that the gap between staff needed and the number available could reach almost 250,000 by 2030. If the emerging trend of staff leaving the workforce early continues and the pipeline of newly trained staff and international recruits does not rise sufficiently, this number could be more than 350,000 by 2030.

The authors outline 5 tests which they say the plan will need to pass in order to meet future workforce demands. 

  • Test 1: Is there a funded and credible strategy to address the immediate workforce shortages – including addressing forecast critical shortages in job specialties and specific geographic areas?
  • Test 2: Is there a funded and credible long-term strategy to deliver a sustainable workforce over the next 10 years?
  • Test 3: Is there a funded and credible strategy to support new ways of working across the health care workforce?
  • Test 4: Is there a credible strategy for addressing inequalities in recruitment, pay and career progression by gender, ethnicity and occupation?
  • Test 5: Is there a plan to strengthen workforce and service planning at all levels of the system, including alignment of the institutional accountabilities and responsibilities for these?

The report calls for urgent action in each of these areas and in particular for a significant expansion in new and extended roles and a workforce planning system that is more aligned with service planning. The think tanks intend to produce a follow up report which with proposed solutions to the range of issues identified. 

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