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Monday 03 July 2023

Government publishes long awaited workforce plan for NHS in England

By MiP

Government announces plan to expand NHS workforce, training thousands more doctors and nurses in England to fill existing staff shortages.

Initially announced as long ago as 2017, and committed to again last Autumn, the government have published the long awaited NHS Long Term Workforce plan, the first of its kind for the health service.

The number of places in medical schools will rise to from 7,500 to 10,000 by 2028 with aims to reach 15,000 by 2031. A number of new apprenticeship schemes will launch, including for doctors, and training places for nurses will increase by a third to 40,000 by 2028. A consultation will also be launched exploring the possibility of shortening medical degrees.

The NHS is currently carrying more than 110,000 vacancies in its workforce, which works out as 1 in every 10 posts being unfilled.

Pay does not feature in the 15-year plan, instead it only focusses on expanding training and medical places. There is also very little mention of managerial and administrative functions.

The NHS will receive an additional £2.4 billion funding over the next five years to pay for the planned increase in healthcare professionals. It is unclear how much additional funding, if any at all, will be allocated for the remaining 10 years of the 15-year plan.

Commenting on the workforce plan, Jon Restell, chief executive of MiP said:

“We’ve been calling for a long term, fully funded workforce strategy for some time and welcome the publication of the workforce plan.

“Increasing apprenticeship places and the expansion of training places is desperately needed in a health service that has 1 out of every 10 posts currently vacant. For this to be effective it must be resourced with sufficient funding and infrastructure support. But failing to incorporate pay into the plan is a big risk as retention remains a huge challenge. Fair and competitive pay for all NHS staff must be part of any long term workforce solution.

“It’s clear from recent reports by think tanks IPPR and Institute for Government that addressing the lack of management capacity is needed to ensure clinical colleagues can focus on what they do best – treating patients rather than filling the gap left by undermanagement. Any long term workforce settlement must consider this, despite the perceived politics of doing so.

“It’s not about administration versus treatment. It’s about how all NHS staff work together under one cohesive strategy to keep clinicians treating patients and enables managers to support them. Failing to capture this in the workforce plan seems politically motivated, ignoring pleas from clinicians for management support and ignoring recent research in NHS productivity. We will keep making this case to government.

“Many questions remain at this stage, but this is certainly a step in the right direction.”

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