Coming ahead of the service’s 75th anniversary, the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan sets out ‘how the NHS will address existing vacancies, and meet the challenges of a growing and ageing population, by recruiting and retaining hundreds of thousands more staff over 15 years, and working in new ways’. The plan, dubbed ‘a once-in-a generation opportunity to put staffing on a sustainable footing and improve patient care’, focuses on retaining existing talent and making the best use of new technology, alongside what NHS England says is ‘the biggest recruitment drive in health service history to address the gap’.
The Plan was commissioned and accepted by the Government, which has backed it with over £2.4 billion to fund additional education and training places over five years on top of existing funding commitments. NHS England says that, ‘for the first time’, the Plan sets out long-term workforce projections, adding that staffing shortfalls ‘have been an issue since the foundation of the NHS’, and that vacancies now stand at 112,000. It said: “The growing and ageing population, coupled with new treatments and therapies, mean that without action, the gap could grow up to 360,000 by 2037.”
The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan ‘sets out the path’ to:
double medical school training places to 15,000 by 2031, with more places in areas with the greatest shortages.
increase the number of GP training places by 50% to 6,000 by 2031.
‘almost double’ the number of adult nurse training places by 2031, with 24,000 more nurse and midwife training places annually by 2031.
NHS England says that, ‘taken with retention measures’, the NHS Plan could mean the health service has at least an extra 60,000 doctors, 170,000 more nurses, and 71,000 more allied health professionals, in place by 2036/37. The Plan will be ‘refreshed’ at least every two years to help meet future requirements.
To ensure the NHS can draw on the widest talent pool, more training places will be offered through degree apprenticeships, so staff can ‘earn while they learn’ – gaining a full degree while ensuring they meet the high clinical standards required by the relevant professional regulators, including GMC and NMC. One in six (16%) of all training places for clinical staff will be offered through apprenticeships by 2028 – including more than 850 medical students. The growing number of nursing degrees will be accompanied by a 40% rise in nursing associate training places over five years, with increases in other associate roles which will support and free up other clinical colleagues.
NHS England said: “A renewed focus on retention, with better opportunities for career development, and improved flexible working options, alongside government reforms to the pension scheme, should mean that up to 130,000 staff stay working in NHS settings longer.
Investment in new technology will also help close the gap and free up staff to focus on using their expertise to help patients.”
Other measures to boost the NHS workforce include:
Trainees will be on wards and in practices sooner, with plans to work with the GMC and medical schools to consult on the introduction of four-year medical degrees and medical internships, allowing students to start work six months earlier.
More student nurses will be able to take up jobs as soon as they graduate in May, rather than waiting until September.
New medical schools could also open up in areas of the country with the greatest staffing shortfall, with similar plans for postgraduate medical training places.
Training of around 150 additional advanced paramedics annually, including to support the delivery of same day emergency care.
Expanding training places for clinical psychology and child and adolescent psychotherapy, ‘on a path to increasing by more than a quarter to over 1,300 by 2031’.
NHS Chief Executive, Amanda Pritchard, said: “This is a truly historic day for the NHS in England. For 75 years, the extraordinary dedication, skill, and compassion of NHS staff has been the backbone of the health service – and the publication of our first-ever NHS Long Term Workforce Plan now gives us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put staffing on sustainable footing for the years to come. As we look to adapt to new and rising demand for health services globally, this long-term blueprint is the first step in a major and much-needed expansion of our workforce to ensure we have the staff we need to deliver for patients.
“We will take practical and sustained action to retain existing talent, recruit and train hundreds of thousands more people, and continue to accelerate the adoption of the latest technology to give our amazing workforce the very best tools to provide high-quality care to millions of people across the country each day. Crucially, this plan will also ensure there is an NHS career choice that works for everyone – now and in the future – so if you are interested in working for the NHS, or have loved ones who might be, please do find out more – it is a decision I have never regretted.”