16th November 2018

Image: Candace Miller.NHS recruitment practices must change, and the NHS needs to become an employer of choice, according to a leading healthcare workforce expert.

Candace Miller, Executive Director of Learning Services and Consultancy for Skills for Health, which helps the NHS and other healthcare organisations with their workforce development, has responded to ‘The health care workforce in England: make or break?’ report. 

The report has been issued in advance of the NHS long-term plan and highlights the scale of workforce challenges now facing the health service.

Commissioned by The Health Foundation, The King’s Fund and The Nuffield Trust, it claims that the staffing crisis in the NHS is deepening so fast that the service could be short of as many as 350,000 key personnel by 2030.

The current staffing shortfall in the NHS is around 100,000.

Candace was one of the professionals interviewed for the report. She said: “I have to agree with the analysis, as it highlights the key information that the government should consider when thinking about how we are going to deliver a long-term strategy for the healthcare workforce.

“Clearly we cannot carry on doing what we are doing – there has to be some change.”

The report says the long-term and supporting workforce strategy for the NHS will need to pass five key tests, which require a funded and credible strategy to: address workforce shortages in the short term; address workforce shortages in the long term; support new ways of working; address race and gender inequalities in pay and progression; and strengthen workforce and service planning at all levels of the system.   

Candace added: “Something else which I think is important is how the NHS needs to become an employer of choice, to not only attract new talent but also retain professionals.

“We need to think about what the total working experience is like and endeavour to meet the needs of individuals, so that we are reducing the amount of work-related stress – one of the key factors contributing to the decreasing staffing levels.

“Those currently working in healthcare need to feel valued and receive recognition for what they do.

“The Our Health Heroes awards, which take place for a third time later this month, are an example of one way in which this is done. They celebrate the contribution of healthcare professionals across the UK.

“One of the seven categories recognises a workforce planning team that has successfully identified and implemented innovative and cost-effective solutions to address workforce or organisational issues.  

“Skills for Health and The National Skills Academy for Health, both part of the Workforce Development Trust and organisers of the awards, partners with healthcare employers across the country to improve access to high-quality training and development for the healthcare workforce.

“We help employers improve the capability of their staff to take part in effective strategic workforce planning to develop their internal capability, so they have the skills needed to take planning forward.”

The report concludes by saying that the approach to securing the right number of staff needs stronger collaboration between the education, health and social care sectors, other national authorities and the private sector to improve the match between health professional education and the realities of health service delivery.

“This is exactly what our Excellence Centres already do,” explains Candace. “The network unites employers from the NHS, independent and voluntary sectors – as well as quality-assured education and training providers – to coordinate, establish and implement high-quality skills programmes.

“This collaborative approach aims to enhance the effectiveness of staff recruitment, development and progression and gives healthcare employers a vital, leading role in informing the sector’s skills development provision on both a local and national scale.”