More staff not enough, says NHS people plan

The NHS needs to rapidly become a much better place to work, says the new Interim NHS People Plan, which will address the once in a generation workforce challenges the service is currently facing.

Developed collaboratively with a broad range of partners from across the NHS, the interim report  argues that, in addition to recruiting extra staff, much more needs to be done to improve staff retention and transform ways of working.

It acknowledges the scale of the workforce challenge facing the NHS and sets out how the NHS needs to recruit, retain and develop more staff to meet rapidly growing demand for 21st century healthcare.

The plan focuses on three key areas – recruiting more staff; making the NHS a great place to work; and equipping the NHS to meet the challenges of 21st century healthcare. This includes plans to immediately increase the number of undergraduates studying nursing with an offer to universities of more than 5,700 extra hospital and community placements for student nurses this year, as well as expand the number of staff in recently created new roles including increasing the number of nursing associates to 7,500, offering a career route from healthcare support work to registered nursing.

The plans also sets out how the NHS will launch a new campaign, in conjunction with Mumsnet, to inspire more nurses to return to the NHS and increase the number of nurses and doctors recruited from overseas via a new approach that will agree national ‘lead recruiter’ agencies with the expertise to support the local NHS with international recruitment.

The new Interim NHS People Plan also says the NHS will devolve significant responsibilities for workforce planning to the emerging integrated care systems and develop new models of multi-disciplinary working to support the Long Term Plan’s ambition to integrate primary and secondary care.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We are securing the future of our NHS for generations to come with record investment through our Long Term Plan, but there’s no question: we need more staff and a more supportive culture to make that plan a reality. The interim people plan is the first step. It sets out plans to train more, hire more, and retain more staff. The NHS will take immediate action over the coming year to lay the foundations to grow a future workforce that can truly deliver the highest-quality care to patients from the cradle to grave.

“We must also make the NHS an employer to be proud of. We want to eradicate blame culture, deliver massively improved mental health provision and provide greater protection from violence and harassment. The success of the health service is rooted in the incredible people who dedicate themselves around the clock and we must show our staff the NHS values them as much as they value their patients.”

Patricia Marquis, director of the RCN in England, said: “This document begins to tackle the real issues but many will reserve final judgement until funding levels and practical details are revealed. The NHS - and the people who use it - deserve a detailed solution to the current crisis, including a new legal framework on accountability for the workforce. When there are 40,000 unfilled nurse jobs in England, we need to see urgency from ministers.

"To attract the very best professionals into nursing and the NHS, it must be a world class employer that pays fair salaries, pensions and demonstrates the flexibility employees increasingly need and expect.”

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