03rd July 2019

Image: The UK nursing crisis – a look at the NHS Interim People Plan.Last month, the NHS released the NHS Interim People Plan, looking to address urgent workforce and staffing issues that the NHS is currently facing. Developed by NHS managers, NHS staff unions, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the Royal College of Nursing, and the British Medical Association, the plan considers a range of challenging areas that are in crisis due to staffing shortages and looks to address serious concerns of the current NHS workforce, and that of the future.

For several years, nursing has been a key challenge for the NHS, an aging workforce with consistently declining numbers, increased attrition and recruitment campaigns which have failed to deliver; It’s no wonder, part three of the plan identifies the nursing challenge as an imperative issue that the NHS must tackle.

The NHS Interim People Plan states: “We have vacancies across all areas of nursing, with the most significant shortages in mental health, learning disability, primary and community nursing. In hospital and community health services, there are around 40,000 reported vacancies in substantive nursing posts (with around 80% of these shifts currently covered by bank and agency staff), and there are further pressures in primary care”.

But, the million-pound question, how can we resolve this crisis?

The plan goes on to identify; undergraduate nursing degree courses, a plan to reduce attrition from training, improving retention of the existing nursing workforce, encouraging more nurses to return to practice, ensuring part-time nurses can increase their hours if they wish to. Whilst these initiatives are admirable, they won’t address the gaps we’ve got now and certainly won’t ‘plug the gap’.

Significantly providing clear pathways and additional entry routes through nursing associate qualifications and apprenticeships will need to be a key ingredient in ensuring a safe and sustainable workforce moving forward.

As sector specialists, we consider all potential routes to increase the numbers and skills of the healthcare workforce, and work with employers to really find the gaps that could be limiting their ability to delivery effective high-quality care.

In recent years, the overhaul of apprenticeships in England has left some employers confused as to how to make the most of the new levy and utilise apprenticeships as a significant route to develop the workforce. From upskilling existing staff, to transferring levy funding, there are now several complicated ways that NHS employers can carry out their approach to apprenticeships. The most recent change allows employers to transfer up to 25% of their levy funding, an increase from 10% in the previous year.

With the development of the nursing degree apprenticeship and nursing associate, this is now a clear and potentially favourable option for employers, and equally for individuals looking to become a qualified nurse. Employers should be considering their existing workforce also, now that there are a wider range of apprenticeship standards in healthcare, and much more flexibility for employers to develop skills of their workforce within new apprenticeships. Considering the services your organisation delivers is key to identifying the best apprenticeships to meet the ambitions of both the NHS Interim People Plan and the day-to-day demand of your organisation.

Skills for Health can support trusts to consider all routes to growing their nursing workforce and review the approach to apprenticeships within their workforce planning and development which will support the ambitions of the NHS Interim People Plan.

For information of how we can help, please get in touch today.