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One-off workforce review ‘not enough’, say healthcare groups

Hospital corridor


Umbrella-groups have called for healthcare workforce requirements to be looked at annually after HEE yesterday announced a one-off review of workforce trends.

Minister for care Helen Whately commissioned HEE – working with NHS England and NHS Improvement, the Department for Health and Social Care, and Skills for Care – to review the current long-term strategic framework for the healthcare workforce, published in 2014.

They will look at ‘workforce demand and supply over the longer term’ – and how this may impact the required future workforce. Registered professionals working in social care, like nurses and occupational therapists, will be included for the first time ever.

But Sean O’Sullivan, Royal College of Midwives (RCM) head of health and social policy, urged HEE to look at workforce annually: ‘This is a moving target and that demands that any assessment is looked at again with fresh eyes every year so that immediate and pressing gaps can be identified and dealt with.’

Mr O’Sullivan also questioned why the Health and Care Bill – which was introduced to Parliament last week and aims to build on proposals set out in the NHS Long Term Plan – did not include ‘such a role’ for HEE, adding that the legislation ‘currently falls short of what is needed’.

Chris Hopson, NHS Providers chief executive, agreed the review ‘can’t be a one off’. He added: ‘To deliver high quality, safe, patient care trusts need a regularly updated, fully-funded and costed, long-term workforce plan and government to regularly report progress against meeting that plan.’

Dr Navina Evans, HEE chief executive, said: ‘I’m delighted that HEE will lead the Strategic Framework for Health and Social Care Workforce, which will be a reference point and guide decisions on how the NHS and social care approaches problems and identifies solutions in the short, medium and long term.’

HEE said it will shortly issue a ‘call for evidence’ to identify factors with the greatest impact on demand for health and social care over the next 15 years, and what this means for workforce supply.

The RCM estimates that an extra 2,000 midwives are needed to provide optimum care, while the latest NHS vacancy figures from March 2021 show 34,678 registered nursing vacancies. Social is also experiencing chronic workforce problems, with one in ten nursing posts vacant in October last year.