The Developing a Resilient Workforce Report

National research supporting NHS skills development

Over 3000 respondents to national research conclude the future skills’ needs for the UK’s healthcare workforce. With key findings supporting NHS ambitions to develop a sustainable and skilled workforce for the future.

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Diverse Workforce Report


The global pandemic has impacted on all of our public services, not least across the health sector, which has been confronted by the enormous pressures that Covid-19 has placed on an already overloaded workforce.

This briefing report aims to assess the repercussions on skills development for the NHS and social care workforce, providing evidence that will help guide NHS and social care leaders’ efforts to develop a workforce that is fit for the future.

Drawing from our biennial Workforce Development Survey 2021, alongside extensive longitudinal system research conducted over the previous twelve years, this report presents some of the long-standing (and partly unresolved) issues that have arisen over this time. It is these challenges that will continue to condition workforce expectations, shape employer needs and refine strategic decision making.

John Rogers, Chief Executive, Skills for Health

John Rogers | Skills for Health

Flexibility, diversity & inclusion

Flexible working can take many forms, including part-time working, condensed hours, job sharing, flexible start and  finish times, and remote working. Before the pandemic, 58.7% of health and care employers offered flexible working to some staff groups, and 16.8% of employers provided flexible working to all staff. However, 18.9% did not offer any form of flexible working to staff. The Developing a Resilient Workforce findings demonstrate that:

  • 24.5% of respondents did not know if their organisation provided flexible working for the entire workforce

  • 59.2% of respondents stated that Covid-19 has adversely affected their work-life balance

  • 12.8% of respondents stated that over the previous twelve months they had been bullied

  • 37.5% of respondents reported that flexible working is currently allowed for some people

  • While the percentage for those not allowed to work flexibly at all has fallen since Covid-19 to 7.7%

The pandemic demonstrated that change could happen far quicker than we ever thought possible. We now need to maintain this pace and ambition when it comes to building flexible, diverse, and inclusive workforces of the future.

Dean Royles, President, Healthcare People Management Association

Integrated care workforce

Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) will become statutory in England by July 2022, and draft legislation has now been published to boost efforts to integrate care. The support needed to implement scalable NHS reform, at the same time as addressing elective care backlogs and staff burnout, is immensely challenging. The Developing a Resilient Workforce results identify that:

In recognising that the future of work will be ever increasingly impacted by partnership working, there is no doubt that this will bring about practical challenges. For example, organisations collaborating will need to consider such issues as co-location of services shared backroom support, and inter-service job roles.

Professor Eddie Kane, The Centre for Health and Justice, Nottingham University

Key skills for people & technology

Enhancing skills across our NHS, health and care workforce whilst continuing to deliver the highest standards of patient care is one of the most important and ongoing challenges faced by employers, leaders, managers, and training providers across the system. As the demand from the public continues to adapt and change, so too do the skills needs of healthcare professionals. The Developing a Resilient Workforce survey highlighted:

  • 81.5% of respondents said performance reviews were the main way in which their organisation assessed their skills levels

  • Only 12% of respondents say they had high digital skills for staff collaboration

  • 56.7% of employers rate climate change knowledge as a key skill in five years

  • Alongside the use of environmentally friendly practices, of which 81.3% of respondents agreed with

People management is vital for ensuring staff are well looked after and receive the support, tools and recognition they deserve, to keep the system running day after day.

Survey Respondent, the Developing a Resilient Workforce Research

Staffing and skills for the future

When considering in-work progression, over a quarter of all respondents felt that their organisation did not have clear career pathways available to staff. Around half of respondents stated that training challenges include a lack of time and funding. In addition, the Developing a Resilient Workforce reports concludes that:

Each of the four nations will have quite different approaches to the way education and training is commissioned or funded and the range of opportunities available may vary considerably, but one thing all parts of the systems must recognise is that we cannot ignore or defer the investment that’s needed now. Whether it’s bringing in new staff or supporting progression through apprenticeships, extending the breadth and depth of someone’s skills and knowledge through continuing professional development (CPD) or just providing good quality supervision.

Angelo Varetto, Head of NOS, Qualifications and Apprenticeships, Skills for Health

Download the full report to read more findings

Complete your details to access the full report and findings, with industry-leading insights from workforce and skills development specialists. Access the ‘Developing a Resilient Workforce’ report here.


Head of Research and Evaluation

Jon Parry, Head of Research & Evaluation at Skills for Health has over twenty-five years of experience in senior and executive roles in the public sector and academia. Jon is responsible for leading a research unit that conducts evidence-based operational and strategic research and policy across health, justice, and community safety.

Jon is an expert in qualitative and quantitative analysis, formative and summative evaluations and data analysis. He has published books and peer-reviewed papers in his specialist areas of research: public sector collaboration; health inequalities, diversity and inclusion; workforce development; and widening participation.

Jon’s current research is focused on diversity and inclusion, health interventions in violence reduction, and the evaluation of community risk management.

Research FAQs

The Developing a Resilient Workforce Survey was conducted in June 2021, as a follow-up to the 2020 ‘Impact of Covid-19’ Research.

Over 3000 respondents took part in the Developing a Resilient Workforce research, with the majority of those surveyed working in a health or care setting, primarily NHS Employees.

The Developing a Resilient Workforce research is part of a series of biennial, national research projects by Skills for Health to invite the UK’s health and care workforce to share their insights on the current skills needs for the sector.

The research helps to inform national policy, skills development priorities, and support leaders to understand the impact of current pressures on the workforce. The insights from the findings support the long-term vision for the NHS and can be used by ICS and NHS leaders to shape workforce development solutions, to create a sustainable and skilled service for the future.

The next national healthcare workforce and skills research, lead by Skills for Health, will take place in 2023. You can sign-up to receive updates about future research and evaluation projects by our team by signing up to our newsletter.

Skills for Health are part of the Workforce Development Trust group, a not-for-profit charity made up of sector specialist bodies, which also includes Skills for Justice, SFJ Awards and People 1st International. The national Developing a Resilient Workforce research also invites responses from across the criminal justice, community safety, fire & rescue, and educational sectors to understand comparative findings from public sector employees.

As part of the national survey, we ask respondents a series of questions to understand how well representative the findings are for the sector, these questions are optional, and respondents may prefer not to say. These findings are anonymous and no identifiable information is collected without prior permission. Download the full briefing paper to find out more about the survey respondents who took part in the research.

Data-driven workforce insights

Read specialist insight pieces from some of the health sector’s leading experts as well as news and blog articles in relation to our survey and research.