NHS and social care organisations should partner with higher education institutions through ‘employer hubs’ to tackle workforce shortages, an NHS Confederation report has said.
The report called for the hubs to be rolled out across England to bring together local NHS organisations, including hospitals and general practices, with their further education colleges to collaborate on courses and create a pipeline for local recruitment.
It also said the Department for Education and Department of Health and Social Care should provide £5 million in funding to pilot seven employment hubs for two years.
The hubs would support local people to enter or progress in health and care careers, including through recruitment, upskilling and retraining, the NHS Confederation said.
As part of the collaboration, Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) would be expected to bring the college voice into their workforce planning, it said.
They would also be asked to promote targeted recruitment ‘with guaranteed interviews to be considered for local people coming through the college system’, the report added.
There are currently around 90,000 NHS vacancies and more than 120,000 in social care and the report warned that addressing workforce shortages is one of the biggest challenges faced by the NHS as it resumes patient services paused during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It called on the Government to invest £2m in the creation of a Health and Care College Council, which would ‘promote, develop and embed the essential contribution of colleges’ in education and training routes in England, as well as ensuring that colleges are involved in the local delivery of the NHS People Plan, which was published in July.
Danny Mortimer, NHS Confederation deputy chief executive, and chief executive of NHS Employers, said: ‘The Government’s commitment to level up the country, tackle regional inequalities and solve the workforce crisis across health and social care will fall flat without targeted action to improve supply including investment in colleges to support local upskilling, retraining and recruitment into these vital roles.
‘Over the course of the pandemic, the spotlight has shone bright on the hard work and dedication of key workers, highlighting how essential they are to the health and wealth of their communities. The pandemic has also starkly highlighted a number of underlying issues, which if we are to attract more people into NHS and social care roles, must be addressed without delay.’
Amanda Melton, commissioner for the Independent Commission on the College of the Future, said: ‘Colleges are a key education and training route for key workers and the recommendations in this report provide an opportunity for them to do even more. We need to develop the relationship between colleges and the NHS to best meet serious workforce challenges.
She added: ‘The role and contribution of colleges within the education and skills system, and specifically in the minds of large employers such as the NHS is all too often poorly understood. With these recommendations, we have an opportunity to unlock their potential to develop strong and sustainable pathways into NHS careers for local people using tangible steps.’