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NHS needs a ‘fit-for-purpose’ workforce strategy, Government told

by Jess Hacker
7 May 2021

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Action is needed to help the NHS need create a sustainable, skilled and ‘fit-for-purpose’ health and care workforce, the Lancet Commission has said.

In a report (6 May), the Commission said that the NHS’ current recruitment and retention crisis directly reduces patients’ quality of and access to care.

A Lancet Commission sees a panel of academics develop a series of policy reforms or recommendations.

The panel recommended that each constituent country in the UK develop a long-term workforce strategy, tied into NHS and social care expenditure plans.

By 2022, each devolved nation’s workforce strategy should encompass: the ‘shape’ of the future of its workforce, from training to retirement; consider the entire workforce, rather than isolating professional groups; prioritise all staff’s health and wellbeing, including the needs of informal carers.

It said that workforce planning has ‘too often’ considered health and care professionals in isolation, rather than as a collective workforce.

‘These actions will help to ensure high rates of recruitment and retention and to meet changing health needs,’ it said.

Relentless workload and real term pay cuts have brought staff morale to ‘rock bottom’, Dr Emma Pitchforth, Senior Research Fellow in Primary Care at the University of Exeter and co-research lead, said.

The pandemic will leave a challenging legacy of additional mental health needs, and a growing backlog for elective care, she said.

‘The pandemic has also laid bare stark socioeconomic and racial inequalities in the UK, and the catastrophic consequences for health,’ she added.

Other recommendations

The Commission also recommended:

  • An annual funding boost of at least 4% over the next decade and a one-off a £102bn injection to help improve its provision of care
  • The development of a framework to better manage resources across health services at national and regional levels
  • Strengthening prevention of disease and disability with cross-government action and earmarked funding
  • Improved diagnostics and novel routes to diagnosis to reduce inequalities and improve treatment outcomes
  • Enabling the routine use of data to create a health system that learns from patient encounters to provide better care and promote innovation.
  • Improve integration across all sectors and providers of health and care services through, for example, strengthening primary care.