Specialist members of the NHS workforce must not be sacrificed in order to find efficiency savings, a government advisor and strategic health authority chief executive has warned.
NHS East Midlands chief executive and Department of Health commissioning advisor Barbara Hakin told the NHS Confederation annual conference last week that productivity would actually suffer if trusts took the approach of using specialists to fill generalist gaps.
An investigation in May by Nursing Times found many trusts across the country had begun requiring clinical nurse specialists to undertake general ward duties in order to fill staff shortages.
But Ms Hakin, a former GP, said: “It is absolutely critical that we keep…. individual elements of the workforce doing the things they, and they alone, can do.
“If we don’t keep those specialisms – whether those specialist skills sit with a doctor, a nurse, a paramedic or a social worker – I think there’s little chance of us having the capacity to deliver what we have to do in the future,” she told delegates.
Dame Barbara said using the workforce more efficiently was the “number one fundamental way” of achieving the £20bn savings target set for the NHS, but warned that staff must be supported to do so.
“We’ve got a real responsibility over the next few years to support them through these difficult times, so they have the right skills and the right development…. to do even better than we’re doing now,” she said.
Dame Barbara also told delegates the NHS must use patients themselves more. She said: “The biggest resource we’ve always failed to use properly is the patient themselves. That resource is infinite.
“If we can help and support patients to take charge of their own care….then that is the main way we can free up all the professions of the NHS,” she said.