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​HEE to review healthcare workforce plan

By Gemma Raw

​The Government has commissioned Health Education England (HEE) to review, renew and update the existing long-term strategic framework for the health workforce. For the first time ever, the framework will be expanded to cover registered professionals working in both health and social care jobs, including nurses and occupational therapists.

“People are at the heart of our NHS" said the Minister for Care, Helen Whately. "It’s our doctors, nurses and other skilled healthcare workers that make the NHS such an amazing institution. Social care depends on its dedicated and skilled workforce too. I want us to look ahead and have a bold vision for the future NHS and care workforce."

A collaborative approach

To carry out the review, HEE will be working in close collaboration with NHS England and NHS Improvement, the Department of Health and Social Care and Skills for Care, as well as key stakeholders across the health and social care sectors.

There's also an opportunity for healthcare professionals to have their voices heard. Until 6 September, HEE is running a Call for Evidence to identify the key challenges likely to be faced by those working in health and social care roles over the next 15 years and what this means for workforce supply. They're asking for input from all kinds of frontline healthcare workers, from hospital and community nurses to allied health professionals such as physiotherapists, speech and language therapists and radiographers.

In addition, a series of engagement events will be held during 2021–2022, details of which will be announced soon.

Positive signs

One of the key challenges facing the health and social care sector is workforce shortages. According to a recent report on the nursing workforce by The Health Foundation, across all staff groups, the NHS had 83,591 full time equivalent (FTE) vacancies in June 2020, with a quarter of all nursing vacancies in mental health. However, there are positive signs. In 2020 there was a 23% increase over the previous year in the number of students accepted onto nursing degree courses in England and applications for nursing courses for September 2021 are up by over a third.

In July 2020, NHS England and NHS Improvement published the NHS People Promise and a 2020/21 People Plan, setting out how to address workforce pressures through greater recruitment and a renewed focus on a compassionate and inclusive culture. The Plan focuses on four key areas: keeping NHS staff safe, healthy and well; support and action needed to create a feeling of belonging for everyone; new ways of working and delivering care; and the expansion and development of the NHS workforce.

You can share your thoughts on NHS workforce issues by contributing to the HEE Call for Evidence here. To find your next health or social care role, browse our latest jobs.