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.