Boosting NHS staff ‘not enough’ to deliver ambitions set out in long-term plan

The NHS needs more staff and must become a better place to work, an interim review suggests.

Health leaders need to take “urgent action” to address challenges in the workforce and ensure they can deliver the ambitions set out in the long-term plan, the report published on Monday states.

The interim NHS People Plan has been welcomed as a “good start”, but some groups warn the recommendations will not be realised without funding.

Baroness Dido Harding (pictured), chairwoman of NHS Improvement and author of the interim report, said: “This plan clearly acknowledges the workforce challenges the service faces.

“I want frontline NHS staff to know that we have heard their concerns about the pressures they face and we are determined to address them.

“The NHS needs more staff to meet the ambitions for patients set out in the NHS Long Term Plan. But that, on its own, is not enough.

“We need to change the way people work in the NHS to recognise the changing needs of patients and to create a modern, caring and exciting workplace that should be the best place to work in England.

“This will take time but this interim plan sets out a clear direction of travel and commits to the immediate actions available to us.”

The interim NHS People Plan sets out how the NHS should recruit, retain and develop staff, as population growth fuels a rise in demand for services.

It states that the health service will need to boost the number of staff, starting with the nursing workforce, which represents the “most urgent challenge”.

The number of nursing associates and undergraduates studying nursing should be increased, while more nurses and doctors should be recruited from overseas, according to the report.

Staff issues such as flexible working, career development, and concern over pensions will also need to be addressed, it adds, and workers should be better trained to take advantage of advances in technology.

The full five-year People Plan will be published following the Government’s next Spending Review.

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, said: “Many key measures here simply won’t happen unless they are backed up by funding in the upcoming Spending Review.

“We agree that staff skills need to keep up to date with new technologies and treatment.

“But this won’t happen without more money for training staff through their careers, a budget which has been slashed.

“A good plan is a good start, but for this to be more than a piece of paper, it needs to be backed up with money and people.”

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “All of us, inevitably, wanted more. More money, more staff and more complete solutions to long running problems like pensions and immigration rules, delivered now.

“But, given the spending review timing and a Brexit-focused Government that was never going to be possible.

“Given that context, we’d rather welcome the progress this interim plan has made, than bemoan what it doesn’t contain.

“However, it’s vital that these issues are addressed in time for the final plan. That includes the right outcome for NHS education and training budgets in the forthcoming spending review.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Anthony Devlin / PA Wire.