As published in the July/August issue of National Health Executive:
Every NHS body and prospective supplier understands that the situation they face today has been magnified and complicated by the demands put on the system by COVID-19.
In March of this year, NHS trusts were asked to put together detailed plans to tackle the backlog. Since then, various ideas have been floated, including more support for patients to be ready for elective surgery when the NHS is ready to treat them, specialist surgical hubs to focus on routine operations, and, inevitably, increased funding.
Working effectively to reduce waiting lists is the sector’s most pressing priority. COVID has exacerbated this unique problem; what is not unique are the kinds of resources we will need to find a solution.
The most pressing concern right now is ensuring the NHS can call on the right workforce – and that means boosting not only our capacity, but also our flexibility, and ensuring that we have the right strategy in place to meet the challenges of NHS staffing.
A workforce for the future
There is an urgent need for NHS bodies to be able to quickly redeploy additional staff, while maintaining a focus on quality – ensuring they are appropriately trained and vetted. Temporary clinical and non-clinical staff, international recruitment and the creation and management of staff banks are all options for NHS bodies who need a flexible solution.
The integration of procurement and commercial teams with the workforce functions of NHS organisations, and building partnerships with workforce providers will help the NHS to get the best commercial value.
Backing up the workforce has to include putting in place the proper support structures and technology, including HR staff, occupational health, and enterprise resource planning systems.
And whatever the requirement, commercial partnerships need to work at a local NHS trust or integrated care system (ICS) level. That could mean shared, collaborative banks of staff, multi-agency recruitment campaigns, and different vendor models.
NHS Workforce Alliance
The NHS Workforce Alliance is a team of experts from the NHS Procurement in Partnership and Crown Commercial Service, the UK’s largest public procurement organisation.
We are motivated by a genuine desire to make the NHS better. You can trust us to act in the best interests of the NHS – always putting patient care first.
We support acute hospital providers, mental health trusts, community health trusts, clinical commissioning groups, sustainability and transformation partnerships (STP), integrated care system groups and ambulance services across the UK.
A key focus at the moment is building connectivity across the health sector, and putting in place those networks of trust and communication that will enable us to understand the key drivers and influencers at a local level, as the NHS moves toward a new national infrastructure.
The importance of integration
The development of integrated care systems is gathering pace across the NHS in England, as they will become statutory bodies by April 2022. That will inevitably impact on workforce strategies.
As integrated care systems develop and the structure of our health systems change, the solutions we provide will evolve to ensure we can always meet your needs. We know that this is likely to impact workforce strategies, and we are currently setting up a new approach to how we work with our customers.
Our aim is to make sure we can provide each ICS with a dedicated account management team to help you manage your transition, respond to your strategic priorities, and ensure that you get the workforce service you need.