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Long term plan: renewed pledges to expand and retain NHS workforce

Long term plan: renewed pledges to expand and retain NHS workforce
By Beth Gault
7 January 2019

The NHS has committed to investing in expanding its workforce and increasing retention rates as part of the long term plan, released today.

The plan said the performance of the NHS ‘ultimately depends’ on the workforce and therefore it would seek to create rewarding jobs, employ more staff, and develop a ‘more supportive culture’.

As part of the plans, a national workforce group will be established by NHS Improvement, Health Education England (HEE) and NHS England to ensure that the agreed workforce actions are ‘delivered quickly’. The group will look at ways of nurturing the next generation of healthcare leaders.

Other measures announced included funding for extra clinical placements for nurses. Building on an existing commitment, the expansion of the initiative means an additional 5,000 such placements places from 2019/20 – constituting a 25% increase.

By 2020/21, funding for clinical placements for nurses will be provided for as many places universities fill, which could signify an increase of up to 50%. An online nursing degree will also be developed by 2020, in order to make studying more accessible.

Newly qualified doctors and nurses who go into general practice will be offered a two-year fellowship, suggested in the GP partnership review earlier this year, with the hope of offering a secure contract of employment alongside a portfolio role tailored to the needs of the individual professional.

The Workforce Race Equality Standard has also been extended until 2025 under the plan, and has been given £1m per year to continue its remit of promoting and working for diversity and equality across the NHS.

However, some workforce issues were not addressed fully in the long term plan, and will instead be discussed in the workforce implementation plan and the HEE budget, expected later this year.

These include arrangements for recruiting oversees, the level of investment in CPD and the number of medical school places available in the coming years.

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said that there was a ‘huge amount’ to do and that successful delivery of the plan’s aims rely on several factors including a ‘rapid solution to current workforce shortages’.

Mr Hopson said: ‘This plan cannot be delivered whilst trusts still have 100,000 workforce vacancies.

We need urgent action to solve what trust leaders currently describe as their biggest problem. It’s a major concern that we will have to wait longer to get the comprehensive plan that is needed here.’

‘We welcome the commitment to an open and consultative process in developing a detailed implementation plan over the next few months. It is vital that the expertise and concerns of NHS trusts are central to those discussions. We look forward to making a full and positive contribution.’

A spokesperson from  think-tank The King’s Fund said: ‘Whether the plan can be delivered relies critically on tackling workforce shortages.

While the plan recognises this, commitments to increase international recruitment depend on decisions about immigration policy and we will need to wait for solutions until a new workforce plan is published later this year.’

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