More efforts should be made to re-train existing nurses or to advance their practice instead of solely focusing on bringing new people into the profession to help tackle workforce challenges, senior healthcare figures have urged.
Speaking at an event on the issues facing the NHS workforce, a director at regulator NHS Improvement said future changes to the way services were delivered, such as shifting more care into the community, would not be possible without developing existing staff.
“There is very little focus on upskilling and re skilling the existing workforce”
A university leader echoed his concerns, claiming ongoing training for healthcare professionals had been so far “pretty ignored”, which he claimed was also contributing to low morale among staff.
Meanwhile, the head of the Royal College of Nursing later stressed the importance of encouraging more registrants to become advanced nurse practitioners, while also highlighting the need for continuing professional development.
“There is very little focus on upskilling and re-skilling the existing workforce – for example, to move from acute to community settings, to move between different types of service pathways,” said NHS Improvement’s economics director Grant Fitzner.
“That’s probably the biggest gap in the current workforce strategy that would need to be addressed in order for these new care models to work,” he said.
“Yes, we can train new doctors and nurses and ANPs and physician associates – although that will be with some delay – but actually most people delivering the new care models are the existing workforce,” he said at a Westminster Health Forum event in London.
“My message is beware of setting too many frameworks”
Professor Steve West, vice chancellor at the University of West England, who spoke at the same event, added: “I absolutely agree the biggest priority has to be the existing workforce, which is currently being pretty ignored in terms of development and progression.
“That’s why, when you compound it alongside the stress and the pressures on the system, people are feeling a bit miserable,” he said.
RCN chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies, who spoke during a later session, also highlighted the importance of CPD and developing more ANPs – but only as a response to clinical need.
She warned that if rigid career frameworks for ANPs were developed nationally, this could stifle innovation by nurses and lead to fewer people wanting to move into these roles – as she said had happened in Australia.
Status of EU NHS staff needs protection post-Brexit
“We do need to encourage more advanced practice, but we need to be really careful we don’t design out the desire to do it or limit the potential of what we might be able to do,” said Ms Davies.
“My message is beware of setting too many frameworks, too many pathways that people have to jump through that prevent you from seeing the patient in front of you and just become something to do,” she said to the audience of managers.
“My message to Health Education England would be think about the nurses we’ve got now, think about the nurses in the future, think about the nurses in the next eight years,” she added.