The highly anticipated NHS workforce plan is more than just a ‘total number’ of staff, but will consider a combination of pay, working conditions, technology, estate and staffing levels, the health and social care secretary has said.
In an exclusive meeting on Monday, Steve Barclay reiterated that the plan was due to be published ‘very soon’ but recognised that it had taken ‘a little while to do’ because of its complexity.
Mr Barclay spoke with Nursing in Practice during a media briefing ahead of a roundtable with nursing staff where they were encouraged to raise concerns and share their experiences about working in the health service.
While also highlighting the increased demands and current pressures facing general practice nurses, Mr Barclay was also questioned on his forthcoming NHS workforce plan.
‘The commitment is to bring that out very soon,’ he told Nursing in Practice.
‘In terms of why it has taken a little while to do, it is because it is a very complex and important piece of work. It is not simply a question of a formula and a total number.’
He added it was also ‘thinking about reforms’ and ‘international best practice’.
There was also ‘significant scope’ to explore ‘the skills mix’ of the NHS and to consider whether there were other staff that could carry out some of the tasks undertaken by nurses to help ‘free up nurses more’, he said.
‘[The NHS workforce plan is] a combination to me of pay…, it’s also the number of staff and how that reflects in safe staffing, it’s also the NHS estate and what are the working conditions?’ he added.
‘And then it’s the technology – where are the bugbears and things that are not working?
‘And then wherever there’s some specific issues, such as on the safety side, or the health and wellbeing of our staff.’
In addition, the health secretary said he wanted to work ‘very closely’ with nursing colleagues to address the issue of staff safety. Mr Barclay said there were ‘still far too many, both physical and verbal attacks’ against nursing staff.
The government also wanted to explore ‘where the best practice is in terms of wellbeing’ and how this could be scaled across the NHS, he said.