Examining the Future of NHS Staffing

Examining the Future of NHS Staffing

September 2022

There’s no industry whose fate was as tightly interwoven with the COVID-19 pandemic as the healthcare sector. For years, healthcare workers put their lives on the line.

They struggled through long working days and worrying conditions to protect the population. This necessary preoccupation with the Coronavirus stunted innovation in the sector.

Yet, it prompted essential conversations about the importance of staff well-being and flexible working in the NHS. The Nursing and Midwifery Council announced in 2020 that the number of registrations boasted the most significant ever annual increase. Approximately 18,000 people joined the register amidst concerns about Brexit and a lack of NHS staffing.

These numbers are cause for optimism when we consider the future of NHS staffing. This article will look at what the future could hold for NHS nursing and midwifery.

Will the number of staff rapidly decline thanks to the aftermath of the pandemic? How will the NHS encourage aspiring healthcare professionals to follow this career path?

Let’s take a look…

Challenging NHS Staffing Shortages

Before we talk about the potential future, let’s talk about the present. Workforce shortages are currently one of the greatest challenges facing the NHS.

Right now, it is projected that the NHS will need an additional 314,000 full-time staff to meet demands in 2030.

This data assumes that patients will be spending a similar amount of time in hospitals as they do now. As a result, staffing demands will remain high, even as productivity increases.

Undoubtedly future governments will have to carefully consider NHS funding. At the same time, the UK struggles to attract home-grown nurses. More than 27,000 left the register in 2021.

Retirement is a crucial factor in this number. Many nurses put off their retirement for a year to support the NHS during the pandemic. Now, every industry faces worker shortages, with unemployment at a record low.

There were 1.29 million open positions in the first quarter of 2022. These shortages affect low-paying roles especially. NHS staff especially has cause to complain about long hours for insufficient pay.

The register is again on the rise, though the UK is lagging behind Europe and the Rest of the world. While numbers are now higher than ever, the NHS relies on internationally trained staff.

Although the contributions of these workers are immensely valuable, there’s cause for caution. Global events, or another pandemic, could easily disrupt these workers so that we may not take them for granted.

Focus on Flexibility

Flexible working conversations are happening across every industry. Remote work has been introduced as a genuine possibility for many workforce members. In the healthcare sector, remote working may not be possible.

Still, the NHS can support flexibility at scale through other means.
The sector is increasingly taking a more agile approach. Critical aspects of a more flexible system include:

Placing more trust in operational teams. This means giving them the freedom to delegate and make decisions for themselves.

Giving staff more options to work. Workers should be able to decide when and how they work. More flexibility facilitates a healthier work-life balance.

Supporting training and career development. Hereby, emphasis should be on flexible and transferable skills. Less staff will train to fulfill very specific roles.

Whole-workforce flexibility: In the future, the NHS may draw staff from a national bank of workers. This could provide qualified and skilled healthcare workers on a per-needs basis.

Embracing agility allows the NHS to work in new, innovative ways. As a result, it will become easier for teams to make decisions and achieve positive results. Flexibility also allows teams to embrace innovations and ideas.

This, in turn, may return the spark to the profession. Whereby skilled healthcare workers can improve care and service.

The Rise of ICSs

ICSs (integrated Care systems) are partnerships of organisations that deliver joined health care services. Local healthcare services will collaborate to meet the specific needs of local populations.

These systems will be established on a statutory basis starting from July 2022. Each will incorporate:

Integrated Care Partnerships (ICP): A statutory committee formed between NHS care boards and the upper-tier local authorities. The ICP will bring together partners concerned with improving healthcare and the local population’s well-being.

Integrated Care Board (ICB): An NHS organisation responsible for developing a health plan for the local population.

They will manage the NHS budget and arrange for the provision of health services. These will replace clinical commissioning groups. Place-based partnerships with local councils, communities, residents, voluntary organisations, and carers.

ICSs offers a vision of a more flexible NHS. It embraces collaboration between crucial health and social organisations to provide more relevant and personalised care to each area.

Improving Recruitment of Nurses and Midwives in the NHS

In response to severe NHS staffing shortages, all parts of the UK are enacting plans to increase the number of nurses and midwives. For this purpose, some funding support was provided to student nurses in 2020.

This has helped increase the number of nurses currently in training. According to Health Secretary Sajid Javid, the overall rise in nurse numbers is pleasing.

However, it’s important to remember that whilst the numbers of nursing staff may increase, the demand for health care workers is also steadily growing.

The NHS will struggle to fill its over 100,000 vacancies without looking to improve funding, staff well-being, and workplace flexibility.

If you want to learn more about NHS contracts and how to incorporate them into your business, get in touch with HCI today to access a free trial.