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Expanding skills of existing staff will help NHS cope with patient demand

17 May 2016

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New research from the Nuffield Trust suggests the NHS expands the role of non-medical staff to meet changing patient needs in the future.

Commissioned by NHS Employers, the trust’s report, Reshaping the workforce to deliver the care patients need,examines how best to reorganise NHS staff, including nurses, community and support staff, to find new ways to provide patient care.

The report acknowledges a growing gap between patient requirements and workforce skills, with more of an emphasis needed on treating patients with co-existing problems rather than one-off illnesses.

To this end, the Trust suggests producing larger numbers of the same types of staff, developing the skills of the existing work force and producing new types of workers.

For example, the Trust is working with Health Education England to remedy the high turnover of nurses in the NHS by exploring the possibility of a nursing associate role that would bridge the gap between senior health care assistants and registered nurses.

The report also encourages medical staff to delegate tasks to non-medical staff, allowing them to focus more of their time on patient care.

However, the report stresses that to achieve the goals laid out in the report funding from clinical commissioning groups is crucial.

Report author and Nuffield Trust director of policy, Candace Imison, said: “Our research shows that reshaping the NHS workforce can offer huge opportunities – for patients, through improved health outcomes, and for staff, through more rewarding roles and better career pathways.

“But we stress in our report that this is not simply a ‘nice to do’ – it is urgent, and essential if the health service is to find a sustainable balance between available funding, patient needs and staff needs, and deliver services fit for the 21st century”.

Daniel Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers added: “As the voice of workforce leaders in the NHS, NHS Employers commissioned the Nuffield Trust to have a thorough look at where we are in terms of workforce development, drawing on the already strong practice across the NHS.

“I am delighted with the final report, which explores where we can further develop our workforce to get the greatest benefit for patients and clients. Our challenge now is to take forward the learning and recommendations in the report.”