Responding to NHS England’s workforce plan, Richard Murray, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund said:
‘Based on what we have seen so far, publication of this plan could prove to be a landmark moment – the first comprehensive long-term strategy for the NHS workforce, and the essential first step to overcome the current workforce crisis. A national focus on training and reform, with some initial financial commitment from government to back the plan, should start to place the NHS workforce on a sustainable footing.
‘The plan comes after years of chronic NHS staff shortages, as well as existing staff being stretched thinly. Our analysis shows just how deeply a new approach is needed, as we compared the UK to international healthcare systems and found the UK has strikingly low levels of key clinical staff, with fewer doctors and nurses per head than most of its peers.
‘Of course, the plan needs to be delivered but the commitment to updating the plan every two years provides hope that it will be a lasting way out of the recurrent workforce shortages that have plagued the NHS over decades. The future projections of workforce supply and demand it provides should help politicians and policymakers to lift their heads up from immediate crises and consider the long-term challenges coming down the track.
‘But the projections are likely to be based on ambitious productivity assumptions. There needs to be realism about the investment in buildings, technology and equipment that is needed to realise those productivity gains.
‘And while the announcement includes a welcome commitment to boost staff training places, we are yet to see much of the detail on the measures to retain current NHS staff, or to improve the culture and working environment of the health service. More NHS strikes are planned and the latest staff survey shows work culture, bullying and harassment continue to be a real issue, and nearly 1 in 10 staff experience discrimination. There is much more that can be done to make the NHS an attractive place to work and build a career.
‘The expansion of training places comes with some additional funding, but we haven’t yet seen the detail of how this funding will be phased – and whether it will be sustained – over many years. Delivery of the wider ambitions of the plan will need sustained investment, and therefore will rest on any future governments throwing their weight behind the strategy, to give the NHS the support and stability it needs.
‘Once this plan for the NHS has been published, the government should complete its work and create a sister plan for social care, with its own funding and own projections. This will be pivotal to achieving the ambitions in this NHS plan, and to ensuring people have the care they expect and deserve.’
Notes to editors
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The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible health and care is available to all.