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More flexible working is ‘crucial’, says NHS People Plan

Hospital staff walking a corridor,


Offering more flexible working in clinical roles is ‘crucial’ to the NHS retaining its existing workforce, the NHS People Plan published last week has said.

The Government’s long-awaited document for 2020/21 is part of a five-year strategy to address recruitment and retention in the NHS following the Interim People Plan and Long Term Plan, published last year.

The new plan said building on the ‘flexible working changes’ brought about by Covid-19 is ‘crucial’ for retaining ‘talent’ across the NHS.

The People Plan said: ‘Many people in the NHS go on to bank rotas, become locums, or leave us altogether because they are not offered the flexibility they need to combine work with their personal commitments.’

More than 56,000 people who quit the NHS between 2011 and 2018 cited work-life balance as the reason, it highlighted.

NHS England and NHS Improvement will also encourage more flexible roles for salaried GPs and create a ‘bank’ of GPs to work flexibility across local areas, the document said.

But the plan did not specify whether more flexible working would also be encouraged for practice nurses, and NHS England has not yet responded to a request for comment from Nursing in Practice.

Areas that the plan encouraged employers to make progress include:

  • Being open to all clinical and non-clinical permanent roles being flexible.
  • From October 2020, covering flexible working in standard induction conversations for new starters and annual appraisals.
  • Offering flexible working from day one.
  • Using e-rostering systems to enable staff to book leave and request preferred working patterns up to 12 weeks in advance.
  • Rolling out the new working carers passport to support conversations about what support would be helpful, including establishing and protecting flexible working patterns.

All employers – including primary care networks – should also have a wellbeing guardian to offer a health and wellbeing perspective. 

The plan also noted: ‘Workload remains a pressing concern and we have all been reminded how critical it is to look after our people – and that we need to do more.’

However, the Government has said that an additional people plan, based on workforce numbers and funding, will be issued in the Autumn following the spending review.

Royal College of Nursing chief executive, Dame Donna Kinnair, has stressed that the Government must now ‘take rapid action’ to tackle 40,000 nursing vacancies.

She continued: ‘The delay in delivering a full and comprehensive workforce strategy, addressing domestic supply as well as recruitment and retention, is particularly concerning given staff shortages and the role that nursing staff continue to play in the pandemic.’

Health and care secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Our NHS people deserve to get on with caring for patients and this crisis has proved there’s bureaucracy that our healthcare system can do better without.

‘So I’m urging people across the NHS and social care to speak up about what red tape you can do without to allow you to better deliver the high-quality care you are renowned for.’