Opinion

Where will we be in 2027?

08 February 2018

Unite’s head of health Sarah Carpenter encourages you to shape a better future for NHS staff by
having your say on the new draft workforce strategy.

The NHS is looking ahead to 2027, recently putting out a draft workforce strategy – Facing the facts, shaping the future – for consultation in England. For the first time in more than 20 years, it seems the message about the lack of workforce planning – and the resulting impact on the NHS – has finally hit home.

Facing the facts paints a picture of the NHS as it stands today. Social care and health together make up the largest workforce in the country, yet the lack of any planning for recruiting, training and supporting staff has plainly contributed to today’s crisis. The strategy grapples with what is needed by 2027 – and clearly we need a crystal ball to see the world our health services will be operating in. What impact will automation have, or levels of funding, or health needs? Maybe the inherent difficulties of prediction have been the reason for the lack of planning – it’s just too hard.

The failure of NHS leaders to deal with this situation has seen some stark outcomes such as the 10.9% vacancy rate in children’s nursing (including health visitors). Add to that the impacts on children and families of a 12.2% vacancy rate in clinical psychology, and a 14.3% vacancy rate in mental health nursing, and the challenges are all too evident.

 

A chance to be heard

So is this report too little too late? Of course, but at the moment it’s the best we have. Currently in draft form, it is out for consultation until 23 March, so you have a chance to have a say on its contents. 

But the report will have an unintended consequence too. At the moment, public health budgets, which sit with local authorities, are being slashed and slashed again. By using the workforce strategy, which highlights the need for ‘a greater focus on prevention’ that ‘will require development of the public health workforce’, we can begin to get the public health voice heard at the highest levels.

The other UK countries do not face many of the structural challenges that England does. The different approach to bursaries for health students is a key aspect of their planning
– and keeping those bursaries puts them in a much better place to recruit new staff.

The document is dense, and often focuses on the medical workforce. But you should take your chance to have your say – either in your organisations, Unite-CPHVA branches or as individuals. It’s about standing up and speaking out for the future of your NHS. 

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