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Response: What they said about the draft NHS People Plan

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The long-awaited interim NHS People Plan – formerly known as the Workforce Implementation Plan – was published today, setting out a range of measures on staffing.

The 74-page plan, promised by the NHS Long Term Plan in January, includes a chapter on nursing, covering plans for recruitment, education, continuing professional development.

The following government leaders, colleges, unions, representative bodies, think tanks and other health organisations have issued statements and responses to the ideas set in the Interim NHS People Plan.

 

NHS Improvement

Dido Harding, chair of NHS Improvement, said:  “We haven’t waited for this plan to be published. Practical action has already started.”

“This plan clearly acknowledges the workforce challenges the service faces”

Dido Harding

She said: “NHS trusts have already identified over 5,500 extra clinical placements for undergraduate nurses, which put us on track to expand nurse undergraduate places by 25% in September.

“The NHS is its people. This plan clearly acknowledges the workforce challenges the service faces. I want frontline NHS staff to know that we have heard their concerns about the pressures they face and we are determined to address them. The NHS needs more staff to meet the ambitions for patients set out in the NHS Long Term Plan.

NHS Improvement

Dido Harding

Dido Harding

“But that, on its own, is not enough. We need to change the way people work in the NHS to recognise the changing needs of patients and to create a modern, caring and exciting workplace that should be the best place to work in England.

“This will take time but this interim plan sets out a clear direction of travel and commits to the immediate actions available to us.”

Health Education England

Sir David Behan, chair of Health Education England, said: “We need to ensure all NHS staff can develop the knowledge and skills they need to work differently in the 21st century NHS.”

“In developing this interim plan we have role modelled a more collaborative and inclusive approach”

David Behan

He said: ”Digital technology, genomics and the integration of health and care are rapidly changing what’s required of our staff and we must support them to take advantages of these innovations.

“The NHS is a complex system, with over 1.3 million staff working in thousands of different local locations from Plymouth to Pontefract. But if we are to meet our current workforce challenges, we have to pull together as one.

David Behan

David Behan

David Behan

“In developing this interim plan we have role modelled a more collaborative and inclusive approach, which will continue over the coming months as we create the final plan.

“Working together means we will be more effective, more efficient and ensure that we continue to provide safe, high quality care despite rapidly rising demand.”

 

Department of Health and Social Care

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: “We are securing the future of our NHS for generations to come with record investment through our Long Term Plan, but there’s no question: we need more staff and a more supportive culture to make that plan a reality.”

“The interim people plan is the first step”

Matt Hancock

He said: “The interim people plan is the first step. It sets out plans to train more, hire more, and retain more staff.

“The NHS will take immediate action over the coming year to lay the foundations to grow a future workforce that can truly deliver the highest-quality care to patients from the cradle to grave.

Health and social care secretary

Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock

“We must also make the NHS an employer to be proud of. We want to eradicate blame culture, deliver massively improved mental health provision and provide greater protection from violence and harassment.

“The success of the health service is rooted in the incredible people who dedicate themselves around the clock and we must show our staff the NHS values them as much as they value their patients.”

 

Academy of Medical Royal Colleges

Professor Carrie MacEwen, chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said: “The academy very much welcomes the Interim NHS People Plan.

“There is now recognition of the inextricable link between the quality of care and the need to have a workforce sufficient in size and properly valued and motivated.

“Despite the speed of its construction, there has been a feeling of involvement and both the analysis of the issues and the solutions proposed are astute.

“We are encouraged too that the plan addresses the three essential pillars of any workforce strategy – workforce supply, improving working lives to support retention of staff and new ways of working and job roles.”

 

NHS Confederation

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said: “Our verdict – this is welcome but an effective workforce strategy will need investment. This will need to be delivered in the next spending review.”

“An effective workforce strategy will need investment”

Niall Dickson

He said: “We are delighted the plan responds so positively to our call for a much greater role for local leaders in workforce development.

“We are also pleased that there is the promise of pension scheme reform for doctors. It may not be enough but it looks like a start and everyone in government needs to acknowledge and address the mounting problems NHS trusts are facing as senior doctors begin to restrict their clinical work.

niall dickson

niall dickson

Niall Dickson

“There is though a need for a much greater alignment with social care. We have to concede that any steps the NHS takes to strengthen its workforce position may unintentionally risk further weakening the social care workforce. We do not need two plans – we need one.

“The confederation is leading a coalition of 15 health organisations calling for a sustainable social care system and we will continue to campaign for this to be addressed in the forthcoming spending review.”

 

NHS Employers

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, which is part of the NHS Confederation, said: “This is a further step forward following last year’s significant investment in pay for our teams, and brings greater focus to the issues that must be addressed in relation to our workforce.”

“Investment is required to incentivise more people to train to be nurses”

Dany Mortimer

He said: “However, investment is required to incentivise more people to train to be nurses either through undergraduate or apprenticeship routes: employers look forward to this investment for the final plan later this year.

danny mortimer

danny mortimer

Danny Mortimer

“Whilst medical colleagues will be disappointed that changes to the tax regime have not been possible, allowing greater flexibility in the pension scheme is a positive response to the concerns we have been raising on behalf of employers. 

“At the same time, we believe that the flexibility proposed should be available to support the retention of all the members of our team, and will continue to make that case.”

 

Mental Health Network

Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Mental Health Network, which is part of the NHS Confederation, said: “We cannot provide the level of care that people with mental health problems or learning disabilities deserve and require without the right staff, in the right numbers, in the right places. Nor can we deliver on the very welcome ambitions of the Long Term Plan.”

“Mental health and learning disability services have the highest levels of vacancies”

Sean Duggan

He said: “Mental health and learning disability services have the highest levels of vacancies – recruiting and retaining these staff must be an absolute priority, so it is pleasing to see that recognised in the plan.

“Our members are making impressive progress in retaining nurses but there is still a way to go and the plan should help. It is also pleasing to see lived-experience being woven into improving services.

“However, in order for this strategy to be effective, we need to ensure the investment already promised in the Long Term Plan reaches the front line and – as stated in the Interim People Plan – that continuing professional development funding returns to previous levels. We look forward to seeing this reflected in the spending review and the final plan.”

 

Unison

Sara Gorton, Unison head of health, said: “Working for the NHS can be challenging so it’s good to see those at the top are finally focusing on the needs of their employees. A supportive workplace is vital to retain experienced, hardworking staff.”

“These urgently needed changes won’t happen overnight”

Sara Gorton

She said: “However, voices from across the health service must be listened to if this plan is to work.

“Ensuring staff know they’re valued and have the opportunity to advance their skills and careers is one of the key ways to motivate employees. It also encourages them to remain part of the NHS.

sara gorton for index

sara gorton for index

Sara Gorton

“But these urgently needed changes won’t happen overnight. Employers must work with unions to better understand the challenges staff face at work and how to resolve them.

“In particular, to deliver better-funded apprenticeships to help those who can’t afford university training.

“Flexible working would be a real boost to the lives of staff trying to balance home and work commitments. But delivering real change needs significant funding and a government committed to improving the NHS for all those that use it and work in it.”

 

Royal College of Nursing

Patricia Marquis, the Royal College of Nursing’s director in England, said: “This document begins to tackle the real issues but many will reserve final judgement until funding levels and practical details are revealed.”

“Many will reserve final judgement until funding levels and practical details are revealed”

Patricia Marquis

She said: “The NHS – and the people who use it – deserve a detailed solution to the current crisis, including a new legal framework on accountability for the workforce.

patricia marquis

patricia marquis

Patricia Marquis

“When there are 40,000 unfilled nurse jobs in England, we need to see urgency from Ministers.

“To attract the very best professionals into nursing and the NHS, it must be a world class employer that pays fair salaries, pensions and demonstrates the flexibility employees increasingly need and expect.”

 

Royal College of Midwives

Gill Walton, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “We welcome the interim plan as a good basis on which to move forward.”

“I am pleased to see a focus on flexible working in the NHS”

Gill Walton

She said: “But for this to have an impact on the working lives of midwives and other NHS staff, and improve the care they are able to deliver then it needs sufficient investment.

“I am pleased to see a focus on flexible working in the NHS outlined in the Best Place to Work aspect of the report. This is very much in line with the RCM’s Caring for You campaign.

“This aims to improve the working lives of midwives and maternity support workers, so that they in turn can deliver even better care for women, babies and their families.  

“The NHS has got to look after its staff better and it is good to see the plan recognising this. This is vital if we are going to retain the midwives and other staff we have and bring more into training and into the NHS.

Royal College of Midwives

New chief executive takes over at midwives’ union

Gill Walton

“The plan also highlights the importance of leadership. This links in to the RCM’s leadership activities running for three years from 2019. Here we are focusing on the importance of leadership at all levels of the NHS and how good leadership will lead to better services and higher quality and safer care.

 “The RCM and its members will be working hard supporting the NHS to make this plan work. But it needs the government to commit to the additional investment their plan and the NHS needs.”

 

Nursing and Midwifery Council

Andrea Sutcliffe, chief executive and registrar of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, said: “Today’s plan is a welcome step in tackling the improvements required to put the recruitment, retention, training and development for nursing and midwifery professionals on a much-needed stable and secure footing so nurses, midwives and nursing associates can provide safer, better care for people using health and care services.”

“It’s good to see the immediate commitment to increase the number of practice placement”

Andrea Sutcliffe

She said: “It’s good to see the immediate commitment to increase the number of practice placements – together with a focus on addressing the specific shortages that exist within the vital areas of learning disability, mental health and community nursing.

“Students on placement and other new and returning entrants to the workforce will only succeed if there are sufficient numbers of qualified nurses and midwives with the capacity and capability to support, supervise and assess them. Ensuring existing staff have the necessary post-registration education and development is essential for this to be achieved.

Nursing and Midwifery Council

Andrea Sutcliffe

Andrea Sutcliffe

“It’s clear the ambitions set out today are high and no-one can afford for this to be a document gathering dust on a shelf. The NMC will continue working with our key partners and stakeholders and look forward to contributing to the development of the final, fully costed plan in the autumn.

“As a UK regulator, we are mindful that these proposals are for the England system and predominantly focus on the needs of the NHS.

“It is particularly important that we continue to develop an integrated approach to the health and social care workforce if people using services in all settings are to get the care and support they need and deserve.”

 

Council of Deans

Dr Katerina Kolyva, executive director of the Council of Deans of Health, said: “There is much to welcome in the Interim People Plan. We are pleased to see explicit recognition of the importance of retaining stringent entry requirements whilst tackling potential barriers to entry.”

“For students it stops short of recommending additional support, such as maintenance grants”

Katerina Kolyva

She said: “The council has been working closely with NHS England and NHS Improvement since the publication of the Long Term Plan and fully supports the ambition to create additional clinical placements and the commitment to strengthening the image and perception of the profession.

“We know universities will work collaboratively with local employers to recruit extra students where additional capacity is found, but it is important to note that additional placements will not necessarily translate into a commensurate increase in student numbers, particularly this late in the recruitment cycle.

katerina kolyva deans health6 002

katerina kolyva deans health6 002

Katerina Kolyva

“While the plan does acknowledge the need to increase understanding and uptake of existing financial support for students, it stops short of recommending additional support, such as maintenance grants, to attract and retain students. This is a missed opportunity which should certainly be addressed through the Full People Plan.

“Although the focus of the interim plan is on urgent action to tackle nursing shortages, we will want to see further concrete action to support growth of the allied health professions workforce. We look forward to working with national bodies to promote and expand these professions in line with population needs.”

 

Nuffield Trust

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, said: “This plan hits the right note in calling for a better, kinder culture in the NHS – and that will make a big difference as long as national leaders start with their own behaviour.”

“For this to be more than a piece of paper, it needs to be backed up with money and people”

Nigel Edwards

He said: “Letting local areas plan their own workforces is a good idea given the relentless failure of national efforts, though we have to make sure they have people who know how to do it. This plan includes real steps to tackle the issue of new tax rules on pensions, which many senior staff see as fining them for spending time with patients.

“But a good culture won’t make much headway when staff are seeing unsafe shortages every day. The plan fully accepts the conclusions we reached with the King’s Fund and Health Foundation: the only way to stem the damage in the next few years is immigration of trained staff. Yet the tough new rules suggested for the period after Brexit risk making it impossible to fill at least 40% of nursing roles from abroad, putting the entire plan into jeopardy.

Nigel Edwards

Nigel Edwards

Nigel Edwards

“What’s more, many key measures here simply won’t happen unless they are backed up by funding in the upcoming Spending Review.

“We agree that staff skills need to keep up to date with new technologies and treatment. But this won’t happen without more money for training staff through their careers, a budget which has been slashed.

“A good plan is a good start, but for this to be more than a piece of paper, it needs to be backed up with money and people.”

 

Health Foundation

Anita Charlesworth, director of economics and research at the Health Foundation, said: “The new NHS People Plan correctly identifies the key workforce challenges facing the NHS and it is clear that health service leaders recognise that staffing shortages are the make or break issue for the NHS.

“But it is clear that NHS leaders are operating with one hand tied behind their backs”

Anita Charlesworth

“Particularly welcome is the focus on making the NHS a better place to work, developing compassionate, inclusive leadership and rapidly increasing the number of nurses. The commitment to engaging with staff to better understand the issues that matter to them, such as flexibility and development, and making clearer the ‘offer’ in these areas, is very positive to see.

Anita Charlesworth

Anita Charlesworth

Anita Charlesworth

“But it is clear that NHS leaders are operating with one hand tied behind their backs as decisions on critical issues such as pension reform, investment in training and development and financial support for student nurses are delayed by central government.

“And restrictive migration policies will only act as a further barrier to addressing the workforce crisis. Without at least 5,000 nurses from abroad each year, NHS staffing shortages will increase. This puts the laudable ambitions to improve care set out in the NHS Long Term Plan at risk.”

 

NHS Providers

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “Trusts leaders tell us that the range of workforce challenges they face, centred on recruiting and retaining the right number of staff, are their number one concern.”

“There is no single, quick solution to these problems”

Chris Hopson

He said: “There is no single, quick solution to these problems. They have developed over several years and will require concerted, purposeful, action over a similar time period to start addressing them.

“That’s why this interim people plan is so important. It’s the first, clear, public recognition from our national system leaders of the severity of the workforce challenges the NHS faces. You can’t solve a problem until you honestly and openly acknowledge its existence, scale and size.

“The plan is a welcome statement, for the first time, that solving our workforce challenge isn’t just about future workforce planning and more money, important though these are. We welcome the focus on making the NHS a great place to work, changing its leadership culture and training a workforce equipped for the future. Trust leaders have a key role to play on each of these issues. You can’t solve a problem until you have the right strategy.

“The plan also seeks to pull all of the NHS together behind this single, clear, approach – a unity of purpose that’s been sadly lacking for far too long. Government, arms length bodies and front line leaders all have a vital part to play here, with more responsibility and resource rightly being devolved towards local systems.

Chris Hopson

Chris Hopson

Chris Hopson

“We particularly welcome the much more inclusive way this plan has been developed and the speed of the work, which have genuinely felt different. You can’t solve a problem in a system as complex as the NHS until everyone agrees to align behind a single plan.

“All of us, inevitably, wanted more. More money, more staff and more complete solutions to long running problems like pensions and immigration rules, delivered now. But, given the spending review timing and a Brexit focused government that was never going to be possible.

“Given that context, we’d rather welcome the progress this interim plan has made, than bemoan what it doesn’t contain. However, it’s vital that these issues are addressed in time for the final plan. That includes the right outcome for NHS education and training budgets in the forthcoming spending review.”

 

Labour Party

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour shadow health secretary, said: “Labour welcomes any proposals that, as we have called for, genuinely improve staff wellbeing but overall this report is thin gruel ducking the big challenges of how to solve an escalating staffing crisis because Tory ministers have refused to back up the plan with the cash that is so desperately needed.”

“Expected recommendations to recruit 5,000 nurses a year internationally have mysteriously vanished”

Jonathan Ashworth

He said: “As Dido Harding’s report hints at, scrapping the bursary, cuts to career development budgets, pay restraint and ongoing austerity means the NHS is left struggling with 100,000 staff shortages including 40,000 nurses and 10,000 doctors. The consequence is patient safety at risk and poorer standards of care.

“Expected recommendations to recruit 5,000 nurses a year internationally have mysteriously vanished from the final draft.

“Without immediate determined action, backed up by investment, the NHS workforce crisis will only get worse.

Labour Party

Labour chases nursing vote with three-part NHS pledge

Jonathan Ashworth

“Ministers should have today announced they were restoring the bursary, reversing cuts to training budgets, and legislating for safe staffing on wards. Instead, we have a government in meltdown and a health secretary jockeying for a prominent role in the next Tory Cabinet. Only Labour will properly deal with the workforce problems our NHS face.”

 

 

 

 

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