Workforce supply and deployment

COVID-19 sources of external staffing

The outbreak will create resourcing challenges across health and social care, and it is vital to consider all sources of workforce supply.

Employers will be trying to recruit from the same pools of people, so it’s important to work with other employers, commissioners and social care colleagues to ensure that a joint approach is taken that ensures the system as a whole is resourced, in order to prevent shortages in one area that impact across a whole place. 

It is likely that some elements of community health service provision will be stopped or partially suspended for the duration of the outbreak. In this event, community health staff should be redeployed into other roles.  

In a letter to NHS chief executives, CCGs, primary and community care leaders (17 March), Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, and Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief operating officer, set out measures to free-up the maximum possible inpatient and critical care capacity and to support staff and maximise their availability. 

The initial focus was to strengthen acute care capacity by deploying staff from community services. It is important to review deployments as demand changes. NHS England and NHS Improvement has produced a range of guidance on issues for specific care settings including community based health, social care, mental health trusts and ambulance services, guidance on community health services and prioritisation within community health services.

Organisations will need to ensure that redeployed staff have appropriate training to undertake alternative duties. For example, there will be a range of duties meeting the health needs of patients being treated in the community, supporting primary care, and providing support to care homes. Those community services staff and services that continue to work in community settings will need particular support, as the numbers of patients being supported at home rather than in hospital increases.  

NHS England and NHS Improvement’s web page on secondary care workforce includes guidance on redeploying your secondary care medical workforce safely (PDF).


Health Education England (HEE) published a paper on 15 April, setting out a process for HEE’s national and regional teams to facilitate medical workforce planning and deployment in support of service delivery in other regions across England. Access the paper in the medical and dental training updates section of HEE's COVID-19 overview webpage.

To deploy existing staff appropriately, organisations will need to assess the full range of skills available across their workforce. This should be informed by any existing skills databases, including those in emergency preparedness plans. This might include: 

  • relevant skills of all staff and the highest level at which they could practise
  • training needs, especially relating to providing care for COVID-19 patients
  • data on travel-to-work patterns to help assess potential for redeployment.

Due to the demand for additional workforce capacity, employers can consider these alternative sources of supply.

COVID-19 sources of external staffing

Bank staff

Information on how to access additional sources of supply, including bank staff.

COVID-19 sources of external staffing

Overseas skilled supply

Information on accessing the skills of overseas individuals based here in the UK.

COVID-19 sources of external staffing

Medical trainees in academic placement

Find out how you can make the most of medical trainees in academic placement to manage your workforce supply.

COVID-19 sources of external staffing

Deployment of nursing, midwifery and AHP students

Guidance for identifying nursing, midwifery and allied health profession students to support patients through COVID-19.

COVID-19 sources of external staffing

Armed Forces and military reserves

Plan to make the most of your military reserves to help with your workforce supply.

COVID-19 sources of external staffing

Agency staffing

Read advice on deploying agency staff to help where clinically needed.

COVID-19 sources of external staffing


Information on using volunteers as an additional source of workforce supply in your organisation.

COVID-19 sources of external staffing

Medical students and doctors in training

Read about how you can use clinical students and doctors in training as an additional source of supply.

COVID-19 sources of external staffing


Guidance on how locum pharmacists and pharmacy students could support the NHS workforce at this time.

COVID-19 sources of external staffing

System leadership organisations

Within the different NHS arm’s-length bodies there are a number of clinically trained staff which could be a source of workforce supply.

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