Long-term plan highlights workforce issues


NHS England has published its long-awaited plan for the NHS, setting out an overall vision for how the NHS should change over the next ten years. 

The plan includes a brief section on workforce, summarised below, which covers proposals for areas including workforce supply, international recruitment, nursing and CPD. 

Detail on funding and timescales is currently minimal in some areas, but this will be set out later in 2019 in a workforce implementation plan, to be developed by NHS Improvement working with stakeholders. 

The plan acknowledges the key role of staff in the NHS and the role that employers play in ensuring staff can deliver care to patients. It also accepts the major pressures on the NHS and argues that the NHS needs to change the way staff work in order to meet changing demands. Responding to the plan, our chief executive, Danny Mortimer, said:
“The priorities set are the ones employers have articulated to us since the publication of the draft workforce strategy in December 2017, and it is particularly important that a national board is being established to oversee the workforce implementation endeavour. This should allow for greater co-ordination of priorities between and within national organisations.”

Key workforce proposals

Workforce implementation plan

A workforce implementation plan will be published later in 2019, after the HEE budget has been set by the government. This will provide clarity on the funding available for additional investment in workforce, training, education and CPD. NHS Improvement will work with stakeholders on the development of the plan in a new national workforce group. We will seek to ensure the views of employers are at the forefront of these discussions. 

 Workforce supply 

On supply, the plan acknowledges that the NHS needs to move to an overall increase in supply. Longer-term action will be discussed within the national workforce group with the aim of improving the nursing vacancy rate to 5 per cent by 2028. 


Short-term action will be taken to increase clinical placements to provide ‘as many places as universities are able to fill, up to a 50 per cent increase,’ by 2020/21. 

Newly qualifying nurses will also be offered a five-year job guarantee within the region where they qualify.

There will be the development of an online nursing degree, linked to guaranteed placements at NHS trusts and primary care, at a significantly lower cost than current undergraduate degrees. 

New ‘earn and learn’ opportunities for mental health and learning disability nursing students will be developed to help attract more mature students. 

There will be a further expansion of 7,500 nurse associates starting in 2019. 

There will be increased action to improve nurse retention with an aim to reduce vacancy rate to 5 per cent by 2028.

Medical workforce 

There will be work undertaken with medical Royal Colleges to address a range of issues in medical training, including development of generalist skills, movement between specialities, credentialling and incentives to better meet service needs at speciality and geography level. Newly qualified doctors entering general practice will be offered a two-year fellowship. 

International recruitment 

The workforce implementation plan will set out new national arrangements to support organisations with recruiting overseas and will seek to expand the international medical training initiative. 

The plan also contains a commitment from NHS England to work with government to ensure the post-Brexit migration system provides necessary certainty for health and social care employers, particularly for shortage roles.  


It is expected that there will be an increase in investment in CPD ‘following agreement of the HEE training budget.’

Supporting existing staff 

The plan seeks to support modern employment culture within the NHS, focusing on issues of tackling violence, bullying and harassment and promoting flexibility, wellbeing and career development.  

There will also be continued support for implementation of the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) and implementation of Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES).

NHS Improvement will support work on improving workforce productivity by increasing use of electronic rostering and job planning.

Leadership and talent management

The plan outlines a new approach to leadership development, offering more support particularly to those undertaking the most challenging roles and including a new ‘leadership code’ and an improved ‘leadership pipeline’.  


Finally, the plan outlines an expansion of volunteering in the NHS through support for the Helpforce programme, with the aim of doubling the number of NHS volunteers over the next three years. 

Access the full plan on NHS England’s website 

Read more responses to the plan from NHS Confederation and Mental Health Network 


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