Friday, 07 July 2023 15:27

The NHS Workforce Plan

In the week of its 75th anniversary, the NHS has announced the role-out of its Long-Term Workforce Plan. A series of interventions that will ‘train, retain and reform the workforce, and put the NHS on a sustainable footing into the future’.

Whilst the plan is unreservedly welcomed, it is clearly wildly overdue. Our regular readers will know that workforce planning has been something we have been talking about and delivering seminars on for a number of years now.

Effective workforce planning cannot be overlooked by any organisation, and especially not one that can only function with staff who have been highly trained in skills that take several years to reach competency in.

This year’s industrial action demonstrates dissatisfaction with the NHS as an employer and there are numerous reports of clinical staff leaving the service. This has put added pressure on the remaining staff which is further compounded by, a symptom of it’s own success, an increasingly ageing population requiring more care. And let’s not forget the obesity crisis, the increase in poor mental health and the legacy of Covid.

The common view is that the once, world leading NHS, has degraded into an average service by international standards, and has been described as “middling at best.” You’ve really got to ask, ‘what has taken them so long to put a workforce plan into place?’

The desired outcomes of the NHS Long Term Workforce plan are to:

  • Train more staff so that there enough doctors, nurses and midwives, GPs, dentists and other health professionals
  • Retain more staff through greater job flexibility and career progression and by improving culture, leadership and wellbeing
  • Reform working practices to provider greater diversity of skills amongst staff and embrace new digital and technological innovations such as AI

If these headings sound familiar, that’s because they are pretty much the same ones we have been using for some time when discussing and promoting workforce planning; it isn’t rocket science.
Investing in training employees is common sense. Medicine is no different to other industries in terms of how quickly things move and develop. Staff need to be continually trained in modern thinking and methods to remain up to date and therefore competitive.

Moreover, employers need to be influencing what training the staff of the future are receiving. A business isn’t in a position to moan that it can’t find appropriately qualified staff if it hasn’t discussed with the colleges and universities what courses it needs them to run in order to fill future vacancies. The NHS is guilty of plundering the talent pool of other countries because there are too few trainee doctors and nurses.

Staff retention is a subject all of its own, and again, one we have covered many times. Pay and benefits are only part of the story. Retention is grown from good leadership and a positive organisational culture. People like to say that they work for a good employer. Doctors and nurses can’t expect to work from home, but flexible working arrangements can take many forms. Sometimes a little creativity is required.

Readiness to embrace change, especially technological advances, is crucial. We have seen a raft of disruption to a wide range of industries in recent years with the onset of digital technologies. Uber, the worlds biggest taxi company doesn’t own any cars. Airbnb, the leader in holiday accommodation doesn’t own any hotels.

Organisations need to be constantly aware of what the next disruptor might be in their own industry or in their supply and delivery chains as this will influence, if not dominate, their staffing decisions for the future. Money spent on training engineers to perform tasks that will be done by robots next year might be better spent on training programmers.

The success of the NHS and its potential to make it to 100 years is going to be very reliant on the success and implementation of the workforce plan. Whilst it may be long overdue, it does at least now set an example to all organisations of the importance of effective workforce planning.

We’re currently scheduling a number of Workforce Planning seminars for Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Bristol so please stay alert for date and venue announcements. In the meantime, if you would like a discussion or some support regarding your own workforce plan, we’re available on 01452 331331 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Read 479 times Last modified on Friday, 07 July 2023 15:38


HR Champions provide first class HR and Employment Law support and advice to UK businesses; operationally and strategically. If you're an employer you'll potentially need some, if not all, of the services we offer.

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