Ahead of the imminently expected publication of the NHS’s Long Term Workforce Plan, Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said:
“Employers will hugely welcome this ambitious plan to boost workforce numbers over the course of its 15-year lifespan.
“A long-term assessment of what we need and how we get there in terms of staffing has long been needed, and to see this finally delivered, along with crucial government backing, is a significant step forward for the NHS and its people. It reinforces the plans for the longer-term development of services in our communities and responds to the opportunities of new technologies and ways of working. When implemented, it will boost domestic recruitment and supply and reduce expensive agency staff. It should provide clearer and better career pathways for our existing people as well as future generations of health workers.
“The ambitions around apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships are massively important. The NHS is the biggest provider of apprenticeships in the country and we have seen the impact that degree apprenticeships in particular can make. We have long made the case for the need for greater support for this area of educating our people and we look forward to working with the government to ensure that all areas of apprenticeship policy support the apprenticeship ambitions in the plan.
“Retention is a key challenge for the NHS and employers support the focus on measures to improve staff experience, including flexible working, changing culture and working conditions. This is a journey all employers are already on, and they know that this is rightly a priority for the plan and their own people.
“Funding for extra training places goes up to 2028, and we await the details of the profile of that investment, particularly given the lead in times for degree level professions and the additional infrastructure in our organisations and services.
“Employers are clear that it is important that the plan is refreshed every two years to ensure that the NHS is able to respond to the needs of the communities we serve. There is the opportunity for local leaders through their systems to take a clearer role in the leadership of the plan, and to increasingly reflect those areas where there are opportunities to converge with our colleagues in social care and wider public services.
“Backing in the plan to increase the contribution of different roles and ways of working will be very much welcomed by our members. Patients in some areas are seeing the very real benefits of new roles – such as clinical navigators, nurse associates and physicians associates – but their availability and development varies.
“The government and NHS England have already started to take steps to improve educational routes and supply to redress the over concentration of staff and training in London and the South East. The plan offers a real opportunity to scale up and accelerate the steps to date in that regard. Whether commissioning medical schools or mental health nursing education in new geographies or boosting the use of degree apprenticeships across the country this can undoubtedly assist in ensuring all parts of the population can access the talented caregivers they need.
“The plan also rightly highlights how AI might be used to improve logistics and scheduling of staff, kit, facilities and patients and we’ve already seen the impact of AI systems in community and social care services in Shropshire and Surrey already. Employers will hope that this is this a sign that digital investment in the NHS will be improved over the course of the plan.”