The highly anticipated NHS Long Term Plan sets out what’s required to ensure the NHS is fit for purpose over the next ten years, with specific focus on integrated care, prevention, reducing avoidable demand and improvements to service areas including mental health, maternity and cancer.

Whilst the NHS Long Term Plan acknowledges that the performance of any healthcare system ultimately depends on its people, the workforce chapter lacked the content many were hoping for. Instead it has delayed the detail until the 2019 Spending Review (SR) has addressed the workforce training and continuing professional development budget (CPD). Yet again we wait in anticipation, this time to see what the Workforce Implementation Plan will bring to the table given the significance of the workforce challenge, which some say is greater than the financial one.

The King’s Fund has projected that 2030 could see vacancies reaching 250,000, associated with historical disjointed workforce planning and strategy development. To ensure the plan is truly sustainable there is a real need to focus on workforce planning across systems, including Primary Care Networks (PCNs) and Integrated Care Systems (ICS), with projections of population need at the centre of the process. Published by the King’s Fund, the Health Foundation and the Nuffield Trust The health care workforce in England: make or break? highlighted the need for the plan to:

  1. Address workforce shortages in the short term
  2. Address workforce shortages in the long term
  3. Support new ways of working
  4. Address race and gender inequalities in pay and progression
  5. Strengthen workforce and service planning at all levels of the system

With workforce seen as one of the key enablers for transformation and service delivery the questions we need to ask of the plan are: will it empower providers to implement at the speed the new service models require to enable them to keep up with the population’s changing requirements over the next decade? Will it provide the resources needed to ensure we have the right people with the right skills in the right place at the right time? Lastly, will it ensure staff are provided with rewarding jobs, the opportunity to develop and a supportive culture?

The plan sets out a new service model to deliver more joined-up and coordinated care, breaking down traditional barriers between care institutions. At the NHS Transformation Unit, in partnership with Prospect and the NHS Strategy Unit, we’ve developed, and are currently piloting, a framework that provides a way of strengthening collaborative and partnership working across organisations, functions, teams and divisions, by enabling all stakeholders to become actively involved in the workforce modelling process. Using a systems approach methodology through a 7 step population centric model, the planning process integrates workforce, service and finances, considers knowledge about the target populations, the political environment, financial constraints and any givens around service provision. The framework ensures an integrated and cohesive logic towards planning services and workforce one, two, five and ten years in the future, ensuring that the “thread” of focus on target populations and the place is never broken. The methodology fully embraces the development of new roles, new ways of working and identifies opportunities for the upskilling of existing staff.

For further information on the 7 Step population centric model please contact Dianna Hollins, Managing Consultant (Workforce) e: dianna.hollins@nhs.net